Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updated Playground Safety Guide released by CPSC

It is estimated that in recent years, there have been more than 200,000 injuries annually on U.S. public playgrounds that required a trip to the emergency room. To reduce the risk of playground-related deaths and injuries, follow these recommended guidelines from CPSC to create a safer playground environment for all children. The handbook touches on the following public playground safety issues:
  • Potential of falls from, and impact with equipment
  • Need for impact attenuating protective surfacing under and around equipment
  • Openings with head entrapment potential
  • Scale of equipment and other design features related to user age and layout of equipment on a playground
  • Installation and maintenance procedures
  • General hazards presented by protrusions, sharp edges, and crush or shear points
  • Supervision and sight lines

A complete Playground Safety Checklist is included in the handbook and can be used when deciding on a public playground for your children. Ensure that the safety of each individual piece of playground equipment as well as the layout of the entire play area is considered when designing or evaluating a playground for safety.

Childcare personnel, school officials, parks and recreation personnel, equipment purchasers and installers, playground designers, and any other members of the general public concerned with public playground safety and interested in evaluating their respective playgrounds should refer to the complete handbook listing from CPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CPSC approves landmark public database

After a sometimes raucous debate, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-2 to approve the final rules for the public database required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. Starting in March 2011, consumers will be able to file reports on products and other consumers and researchers will have access to that information.

Much of the discussion centered around who could report to the database. Commissioners Nord and Northup want to limit it to those with first hand knowledge only and Commissioner Adler and Chairman Tenenbaum spoke eloquently on the risk of limiting information reported -- covering up injuries.

Danny Keysar, whose parents founded KID, found his way into the discussion. Since no one was in the room when Danny died and it occurred in child care, not his parent's home, Commissioner Adler was concerned that under the more narrow definition brought by the minority, Danny's death might have gone unreported.

But in the end the broad definition prevailed. This will allow parents and caregivers to keep their own children safe and allow researchers and others to use the information to identify unsafe products and injury trends -- leading to safer products in the future.

In his closing remarks, Commissioner Adler dedicated the database to the memories of children injured by unsafe products: Danny, Ellie and Tyler.

We commend the Commission staff for their incredible hard work in putting together the rule and the Commission for moving forward.

By the way -- in the meantime, if you have an incident with a consumer product, you can report it now to the CPSC. While reports after March 2011 will be public, CPSC has always accepted such consumer input and it has led to many recalls.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CPSC educates new parents on babywearing safety

After the earlier warning and recalls, some parents may have begun to worry about the safety of using slings for babywearing. CPSC has now posted educational advice for new parents to babywear safely. Currently ASTM International is developing the first standard to cover slings. Other baby carriers are already covered by a standard for soft infant carriers. In addition, the Baby Carrier Industry Group has an additional safety page that complements the info offered by CPSC.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More on the database, from a mother's perspective

This letter is from Lisa Olney, whose daughter Ellie would have been 9 last week, had she not died in a portable crib just after her first birthday.

It scares to me think that the mandated database, part of the CPSIA, has organizations and individuals attempting to suppress it. This database is an essential part of keeping our children safe by making consumer experience with products accessible to all.

On December 19, 2002, my daughter Elizabeth, just 13 months old, died in a poorly designed play yard. I live my life often looking back through “what if’s” and “should have’s,” but I’ve learned to give most of that up in order to save myself from being a horribly miserable individual. Instead, I realize the importance of focusing on efforts to protect our children so that no parent has to suffer from what I have, along with too many other victims of unsafe children's products. This CPSC database is going to protect millions of children, because it provides a place to go when considering the choices parents make when purchasing products, especially those products intended to be beneficial to our children’s safety.

Since Elizabeth’s death, I gave birth to a third daughter. Having been so disappointed in the things I learned about children’s product safety since Elizabeth’s accident, it is an understatement to say I was paranoid and at a loss as to how I might raise another baby, using products whose manufacturer’s executives or legal teams were suppressing information essential to my child’s safety.

Sure, there is the CPSC recall list, but what about the complaints lying in the “inbox” of someone’s desk, waiting to be investigated? What about those products that had a few complaints but never made it to the public until it resulted in a death? It took nine months for the CPSC to release Ellie’s story and the warning that went with it. It wasn’t even a recall; Graco only had to offer new warning labels cautioning people of the possibility and danger of entrapment.

The database planned for CPSC gives parents, grandparents, families, friends, medical personnel, and even retailers, immediate and FREE information on ANY problems reported about a particular product, not just those few which rise to the surface because a child has either died or been seriously injured by the product. By that time, it’s too dangerously late. As with Ellie’s case, it could take months before the public sees this information.

Of course manufacturers might not be pleased with production of such a database because it not only means that their products could show up on the database, it also means that they will be forced to spend more money on assuring the safety of their product if they want it to sell.

A child is priceless, beyond what any definition might attach itself to that word. I don’t know whether Ellie was destined to be a ballerina or a professional race car driver. I also don’t know what she might have looked like on her 9th birthday last week or what her laughter sounds like. What I do know is that her life was ripped from her too soon.

CPSC’s database demands that manufacturers hold themselves to higher standards and give the public the chance to decide for themselves, whether a product’s small glitch or major defect is worth taking a risk on and buying for their child. I cringe at the thought that a manufacturer might put enough pressure on the CPSC to divert the creation of this database in any way.

Companies who make products for our children deserve to be held accountable for that product at every moment. I certainly can never hide from my grief, my pain, or the permanent hole in my life that once was my toddling, smiling child. Manufacturers don’t deserve the ability to hide.

Lisa L. (Davis) Olney

LA Times reporter posts video about CPSC Database -- vote is tomorrow

David Lazarus, a reporter with the LA Times has both written about and posted a video about the CPSC Consumer Product Safety Database. As he says, it is good for consumers. The vote at CPSC is tomorrow morning.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Next week: ASTM standards committee meetings on juvenile products

Next week for five days, manufacturers, testing labs, regulators and a few consumer advocates will meet in suburban Philadelphia to discuss standards for juvenile products -- cribs, strollers, high chairs and many others. This is the twice-annual meeting of the ASTM International subcommittees on juvenile products. Each product type group meets to review changes to the standard, analyze incident data to look for injury trends or possible design flaws, and -- because of the CPSIA -- discuss developing each voluntary standard into a document on which CPSC can base the new mandatory standards.

This month, the group will be finalizing the first standard for sling infant carriers and holding the first meeting of a group to develop a standard for crib mattresses. KID has been participating in the ASTM process since 2000. One of only a handful of consumer representatives, we sometimes have to work to get our voice heard, but have seen progress in the decade we have worked on ASTM standards. We urge other consumer organizations or advocates to consider joining ASTM and adding your voice to the process.

The voluntary standard setting activities of ASTM will benefit greatly from the new public database launching in March 2011. Earlier access to injury data and the ability to look for patterns in injury data that can be addressed through standards will lead to stronger standards that can more nimbly react to incidents. This year's Nursery Product Report from CPSC showed a jump in emergency room visits linked to juvenile products. That information, combined with the new database will give ASTM the information they need to improve product safety.

Have a product related concern that you would like ASTM to consider? Email KID and we'll bring that along with us next week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New data from CPSC suggests increase in injuries from juvenile products

Today CPSC released its 2010 Nursery Product Report. The report looks at injuries and deaths in nursery products from 2009. The report cites 77,300 injuries involving nursery products that required a trip to the emergency room. This is an increase of around 21% from last year. The rate does fluctuate year to year, but this is a particularly high increase. Injuries in cribs rose by about 27% from 11,500 to 14,600. CPSC says the increase could be due to technical issues, but their staff (and KID!) will be carefully reviewing the data to determine if there are product related issues leading to the increase. Infant carriers and car seats (outside of their use in cars), cribs and strollers were the top three categories, accounting for most of the injuries.

CPSC gets death data from different sources, and only provides averages over a three year period. The data also lags behind injury data, so the average number of deaths from 2005-2007 was 88 a year, with 60 of those in sleep environments such as cribs (36), bassinets (14) and play yards (10).

CPSC notes that the deaths and injuries, while involving a product, may not always be caused by product defects, but by other factors such as extra bedding. Check out KID's safe sleep tips or CPSC's new video for more information on creating a safe sleep environment.

The new database that launches in March 2011 will provide additional injury data to study along with this emergency room data.

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