What are voluntary standards?
There are thousands of voluntary consensus safety standards1 ("voluntary standards") in existence and one may exist for your consumer product. There are many voluntary standard organizations (like ANSI, ASTM, CSA, UL, and others) that facilitate the creation of these voluntary standards for individual consumer products. In many cases these standards bring industry groups, government agencies, and consumer groups together to agree on best consumer product safety practices. Most voluntary standards committees are open to the public for participation and membership for a nominal membership fee. Individual voluntary standards are available for purchase from the relevant voluntary standard development organization.
When you are designing and manufacturing your product, you should contact voluntary standards organizations that may have standards in place for your product or may have standards in place for products similar to yours. If you are designing a new product in a new product category, there may not be voluntary safety standards that directly address your product, but there may be standards for similar products that may be relevant to you. For example, if you are designing a non-toy children's product that contains a cord, there are a few different standards, including the toy safety standard, that exist and that may provide helpful guidance for you in determining the safe length of cord or string to be used. Although not a mandatory requirement, you would be well advised to consider the guidance in these other standards because it is based on the considered judgment of other manufacturers, designers, and safety experts.
When reviewing voluntary safety standards, you should remember that the standards may not always contemplate issues unique to the use or misuse of your product's design. Therefore, CPSC staff considers these standards to be a safety floor from which to design your product; and you should always consider finding ways to build safety into your product and go above and beyond the standards. You are encouraged to consider how consumers may use (or even misuse) your product in ways that were not intended but may still be foreseeable from the CPSC's perspective. One way to do this is to retain engineers, laboratories, or failure analysis firms to work with you in considering the possible hazards that could be associated with your product and to play "devil's advocate" to your design process.
Using the information available to you from voluntary safety standards is one element of a successful program to ensure that safety is built into your consumer product at the design stage.
1Also known as "non-government consensus standards."
This communication has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is based upon the facts and information presented. This communication does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice and has not been reviewed or approved by the Commission, and does not necessarily represent their views. Any views expressed in this communication may be changed or superseded by the Commission.