A portable bed rail (bed rail) is a device intended to be installed on a bed to prevent children from falling out of the bed. Although manufacturers typically recommend the use of the product for children from 2 to 5 years of age, reported incidents demonstrate that bed rails are used for children younger than 2. Since 1990, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of 15 deaths to children under 2 years of age and 3 deaths to children older than 2 years (reported through February 2006). The three older children were all reported to have had developmental disabilities.
Up until 2003, all bed rail products sold were of similar design. They consisted of a vertical rail about 15 inches in height and about 4 feet in length. There generally were two or more arms at right angles to the plane of the rail that slipped between the mattress foundation and the mattress. These bed rails were expected to stay in place due to the friction between the arms and the foundation/mattress. However, once the bed rail is installed on a bed, the design may allow it to be unintentionally moved outward, away from the mattress, if a force is applied in that direction. An outward force may originate from activity of the child in the bed, while the child is asleep or awake. Once moved outward, a gap can be created between the vertical portion of the rail and the side of the mattress. In addition, the bed rail may be installed incorrectly so that a gap is created. For example, a parent or caregiver may not push the bed rail in all the way to the mattress during installation. In this hazard scenario, a child can roll into or otherwise enter the gap and become entrapped. Once entrapped, the child can asphyxiate or strangle. In the majority of the fatal incidents reported to CPSC, the presence of this gap led to the deaths.
Mandatory and Voluntary Standards Activities
In 2001, CPSC staff developed requirements for bed rails that would help prevent the formation of a gap between a bed rail and the side of a mattress. In September of 2001, these performance requirements, as well as marking and labeling requirements, were presented to the Commission as an option for rulemaking. In October 2001, the Commission voted to issue a draft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR). Also in October of 2001, the staff’s draft proposed requirements for rulemaking were discussed at an ASTM Subcommittee meeting on portable bed rails. A motion was passed to send the requirements out, as drafted by CPSC staff, for Subcommittee ballot.
In March 2003, the revised ASTM standard F 2085-03 on Bed Rails was approved by ASTM. The voluntary standard contains two of the three major performance tests that were proposed by CPSC staff for rulemaking. This revision to the voluntary standard has changed the design of most bed rails being sold today. Most of the new bed rails on the market are designed to stay snug up against a mattress, preventing the formation of the hazardous gap.
In August 2005, a revision to ASTM F 2085-03 was sent out for ballot. The revision included changes to the markings and labeling section of the standard and also clarified issues associated with testing requirements. It is expected that these revisions will be approved sometime in 2006.
CPSC Staff Reports, Memoranda and Contracts:
Contact ASTM International:
- For additional information on ASTM F 2085-03, Standard Safety Specification for Portable Bed Rails, contact Katharine Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org or ASTM International at http://www.astm.org