Release date: August 18, 1983
Release number: 83-047

Release Details

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to withdraw a proposed mandatory rule governing toy chests and instead voted for a voluntary standard. The vote was 3 to 2. Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts and Commissioners Stuart Statler and Terrence Scanlon voted in the affirmative. Commissioners Sam Zagoria and Edith Barksdale Sloan voted in the negative.

The voluntary standard is the same as the proposed mandatory standard published by the Commission.

The Commission noted that manufacturers expect to be in full compliance with the voluntary standard for all future products and claim that 98 percent of production this year has been in compliance. The Commission directed its staff to closely monitor industry adherence to the voluntary standard.

In April, 1982, the Commission published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for toy chests, and in March, 1983, published a proposed rule. The Commission took this action to protect children from the strangulation hazards of toy chests. CPSC knows of 21 cases of children dying from strangulation, two cases of brain damage, and three cases of near-misses as a result of toy chest incidents.

Under the voluntary standard, toy chests with hinged lids may not drop more than one half inch when lifted more than two inches but not more than 60 degrees from the fully closed position. This will prevent a toy chest lid from falling against a child's head or neck when he or she is leaning into the toy chest.

The Commission urges all consumers with toy chests that do not meet this rule to remove the toy chest lid and contact the manufacturer of the toy chest concerning a safety device to retrofit the toy chest to make it safe.

Consumers seeking further information may call the CPSC toll-free Hotline at 800-638-CPSC. A teletypewriter number for the hearing impaired is (301) 595-7054.



CPSC Adopts Voluntary Standard For Toy Chestsa

Statement 0f
Nancy Harvey Steorts, Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Toy Chests
Wednesday, August 17, 1983

We now have before us a decision on whether to promulgate a mandatory Rule. In April 1982 we published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for toy chests and in March of this year we published a proposed rule. Finally, we are considering a federal register notice that would issue a final mandatory rule.

I believe action to protect children form the strangulation hazards of toy chests is imperative and long overdue. As I mentioned in my opening statement we know of 21 cases where children have died from strangulation, two cases of brain damage, and three other cases of near-misses associated with toy chests.

Today we have learned from our staff that the voluntary standard activity for toy chests will be completed this month and that voluntary standard is the same as the proposed mandatory standard the Commission published.

Manufacturers have told our staff that they expect to be in full compliance with this voluntary standard for all future production. In fact, they claim that 98% of production this year has been in Compliance.

In addition I have personally held discussions with several company presidents about their intentions to correct this potential hazard. In these conversations, each president expressed a concern about the problem and told me that they were already putting a safety device on their toy chests and that they would do so in the future regardless of this Commission's action.

Several also indicated that they would send a safety device and a diagram for correct installation to consumers for a nominal cost.

Based on the staff's information, the discussion that we have had today, and my conversations with the manufactures, I am voting to withdraw the Proposed mandatory rule.

However, I would like to challenge all manufacturers to add a retrofit program to their activities. I feel that it is essential that the toy chests now in the marketing pipeline, as well as in the hands of the Consumers of America also be me as safe as possible.

In conclusion I would like to applaud the toy manufacturers of America, which under the direction of Doug Tompson, has done an outstanding job of bringing both members and non-members together in an effort to correct this hazard.



CPSC Adopts Voluntary Standard For Toy Chestsb

Statement Of
Terrence M. Scanlon, Vice Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission


Toy Chest Standard
August 17, 1983

This vote today is my first on the question of imposing a mandatory standard as a Commissioner. It is also coincidentally, the first final vote on a mandatory rule to come before the Commission since the 1981 amendments, those amendments which mandated that this Commission defer mandatory standards in favor of the voluntary process under certain circumstances. Make no mistake about it, the tragic injuries or deaths to young children from toy chest lids are both profound and troubling to all concerned, and most obviously to the affected families. We, as a public health and safety agency, must and should do all we can to protect the consumers of this Nation from the unreasonable risks of deaths and injuries such as those involved in the matter before us today. This is especially true of those least able to either speak or work to protect themselves -- the young. Hut, Congress in these 1981 amendments to our acts, mandated and codified as a duty for this Commission the realization of the significance of the voluntary standard process, and the important and pivotal role it too can play in reducing the unreasonable risk of injury from defective consumer products. I believe it is much less costly and faster to get a voluntary standard in place which will produce results faster than would be the case with a mandatory rule.

Now let's look at this proposed final rule that is before us here today since the passage of the CPSC's 1981 amendments -- toy chests. We have a voluntary standard already developed under the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) process in conjunction with the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA). The CPSC staff indicates the voluntary standard is identical to the proposed rule, or even a little more stringent. We also now have a cooperative industry, regardless of the past, that by its very nature, is noncohesive. Having worked for years with small businesses, I can tell you that noncohesive is the essence of most of the small business community. These firms often do not have the time or resources to join and work with trade associations. However, in meeting with TMA representatives, I am told that more than 90 percent of the manufacturers have agreed to apply the corrective hinge to these chests and are doing so voluntarily today. The CPSC Economics staff supports these figures as well. These lid supports effectively reduce the risk of injury involved.

It appears to me that we are not faced here with a recalcitrant industry, but rather with a small business-intense industry that, within the parameters of that industry and the inherent limitations of its very makeup, is trying and succeeding in doing what is best for the consumer, the public, and themselves as well. There is a commendable and sincere effort underway to protect the public and rather than discourage such efforts, in this industry and others, by imposing a mandatory rule now, we ought to defer here to their voluntary efforts, to monitor their activities, and encourage additional and better efforts in this area of toy chests and other children's products.

Cost is not a factor in this case. There is little involved here that prohibits the manufacturers from complying voluntarily and only a slight additional cost to the consumers.

In light of the ASTM voluntary standard scheduled for final ballot completion next week, I doubt whether Commission action could be effective and in place before that voluntary effort is consummated. This is another case where the voluntary standard process moves faster, thereby affording more protection for children without the threat of litigation.

Accordingly, I opposed the imposition of this rule and moved to terminate this rulemaking proceeding. The mandate of the act under which we operate requires nothing less, as does common and practical sense.



CPSC Adopts Voluntary Standard For Toy Chestsc

In The Matter Of

Commission Vote On Toy
Chests Draft Standard

Dissenting Opinion
Commissioner Edith Barksdale Sloan

The Commission has erred grievously in its rush to withdraw the proposed rule to provide toy chest safety. In my opinion, read into the record, I listed numbers of reasons, all of them valid and supportable, to justify the rule. The unreasoned choice of the Commission majority to reject a motion to defer a decision until the staff could validate the industry's claims in favor of going back to square one with an industry that has demonstrated indifference bordering on neglect is inexcusable.

The Commission, it appears, has given this industry the benefit of considerable doubt. I wish it had extended that same courtesy to the nation's children.



CPSC Adopts Voluntary Standard For Toy Chestsd

In the Matter of

Commission Vote on Toy
Chests Draft Standard

Dissenting Opinion
Commissioner Sam Zagoria

A majority of the members of the Commission voted today to terminate further work on a mandatory standard and to rely on the oral promises of toy chest manufacturers.

With this vote by the majority, the Commission is tossing away two years of effort to require a reluctant industry to add a 15 cent safety hinge to a $25 to $75 toy chest. It is doing so before a proposed voluntary industry standard requiring the hinges has been voted on by the individual companies and before anyone outside the industry has had the opportunity to check whether manufacturers' claims as to new safety hinges have been confirmed or tested.

With 21 infant deaths already recorded because of unsafe toy chests, I suggest the majority decision under these circumstances is premature and dangerous. We should be sure, not sorry.

Great expectations are fine for a novel, but child safety should not have to run the risk of possible fiction.

CPSC Adopts Voluntary Standard For Toy Chestsd

Back to Top

Media Contact

Please use the below phone number for all media requests.

Phone: (301) 504-7908
Spanish: (301) 504-7800

View CPSC contacts for specific areas of expertise