FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

MARCH 17, 1993

 

Release # 93-052


 

WASHINGTON, DC -- CPSC today is unilaterally warning consumers that certain inexpensive, upholstered, metal framed stacking chairs, manufactured and distributed by Flanders Industries, Inc. of Fort Smith, Arkansas from 1970 until 1985, may collapse during use. Flanders reportedly manufactured and distributed approximately one million of this commonly used type stacking chair prior to 1985. No other Flanders' products are involved in this warning.

Flanders has informed CPSC that it has had reports of 26 incidents in which it is alleged that such a chair manufactured by Flanders collapsed. The Commission staff believes that the incidents occurred when the chairs broke in the area where the legs are joined to the frame. The failures reportedly cause the chair to collapse as the seat and leg sections separate. Several of the alleged injuries resulting from such collapse reportedly involve fractured bones and serious injuries to the back.

These stacking chairs are inexpensive upholstered vinyl material with metal frames. They may be used by the public in various settings including hotels, offices and restaurants. In most cases, the chairs involved in known incidents of failure were in use for approximately five to 10 years prior to failure and may not have been regularly inspected for metal fatigue or damage which may occur as a result of normal wear and tear or abnormal abuse. Since the users of these chairs are constantly changing, a user will have no advance warning that a chair is defective and about to collapse.

Since other manufacturers' stacking chairs may be of similar design and construction, CPSC urges owners of all stacking chairs to inspect the chairs thoroughly on a routine basis. Flanders has informed CPSC that it has evidence of other manufacturers' similar chairs collapsing after extended use and abuse. Moreover, since identification of the manufacturer of a particular chair may be difficult after the chair has been in use over a significant period of time, owners are urged to inspect all chairs similar to those which are the subject of this warning. The estimated one million chairs manufactured and distributed by Flanders constitutes a small percentage of the number of stacking chairs manufactured and distributed by the industry over the years.

These chairs may be inspected by using an easily obtainable three or four power magnifying glass, periodically checking for any cracking or separation around the area of the welds which join the seat and leg frame sections. The smallest visible crack or separation indicates that damage has begun. If damage is discovered, the chair should be immediately replaced or repaired.

CPSC is issuing this warning as part of its mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The Commission's objective is to reduce the estimated 28.5 million injuries and 21,600 deaths associated each year with the 15,000 different types of consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction.

The following is Flanders' position: Flanders Industries emphatically denies that any of its chairs failed as a result of any defect in the chair. Flanders made over one million stacking chairs which are identical to chairs still manufactured today by other companies. All of the chairs manufactured by Flanders are now at least eight years old, and many are over 20 years old. The 26 chairs which have been reported to have collapsed have been viewed by Flanders and the company believes that all of those that collapsed had been subjected to severe overuse and abuse. Flanders states that it made a strong, high quality chair which sold for $14.00, but that no product, including these chairs, is indestructible, particularly when subjected to overuse and abuse. Flanders cites the low percentage of reported collapse of their chairs (.0026%) as evidence of the high quality of those chairs manufactured by Flanders during the 15 years it engaged in the manufacture of stacking chairs.

Flanders also states that the chairs in question were manufactured in compliance with the only safety standards which existed for the chair at the time of manufacture and emphasizes that those standards are the same that exist for the manufacture of these chairs today. Those standards, published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) were adopted by ANSI from standards promulgated by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA) and such standards were issued in conjunction with and with the approval of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC does not deny that these standards are the only safety standards in existence applicable to these chairs and that the Flanders' chairs comply with the standards. Flanders believes that the CPSC has adopted a posture that all products should be designed to tolerate unlimited abuse and overuse and that such a standard is unreasonable on its face.

Flanders would join with the CPSC in urging all owners of these chairs (or for that matter, any product) to conduct regular inspections in order to assure themselves that the product they are using is not worn out. In the event the inspection reveals problems which cause the owner concern, the owner should take immediate and appropriate steps to remove the product from service and either repair or discard the product.