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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 16, 2018

ANSI approves new window covering voluntary safety standard

By Colleen Kave, J.D.

The Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) announced the approval a new window covering safety standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), according to a news release late last week. The new safety standard, ANSI/WCMA A100.1-2018, will require all stock window covering products sold in stores and online—which account for more than 80 percent of all such products sold in the U.S. and Canada—to be cordless or have inaccessible or short cords. The compliance date for the new standard was originally set for January 9, 2019, which is one year after ANSI’s approval, but based on a request from Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle, the date has been moved up to December 15, 2018.

CPSC incident data shows that requiring stock products to be cordless or have inaccessible cords will have the most significant and immediate impact on reducing the strangulation risk these products pose to young children. Certain segments of the population, including the elderly, those who are short in stature, and those with disabilities, need corded window coverings, so the new standard permits custom-order window coverings to have cords. However, the new standard imposes restrictions on these custom-made window coverings, requiring operating cords to have a default length of 40% of the blind height and a default to a tilt wand instead of a tilt cord. The new safety standard also includes a change in warning tags to more graphically depict the strangulation hazard.

The new standard was developed over an 18-month period according to ANSI requirements, which mandate an open and balanced process with public review opportunities. Although the standard is called "voluntary," that term simply signifies that it was developed through the cooperation of industry stakeholders, the CPSC, safety experts, and others under the auspices of ANSI. According to WCMA Executive Director, Ralph Vasami, "All companies who manufacture, distribute, or sell window coverings in the U.S. must comply with the voluntary safety standard or face enforcement action by the CPSC and/or be open to legal action if non-compliant products are sold." While Vasami described the measure as the most significant revision to the window covering safety standard since 1996, he acknowledged that more must be done to further enhance safety on corded custom products.

Acting Chairman Buerkle also praised the new standard in a press statement, commending the collaborative effort, emphasizing the importance of the safety standard for protecting children, and looking ahead to future action on custom window coverings.

Consumers who wish to identify cordless window covering options can look for the "Best for Kids" label, a certification program created by WCMA in 2015 to assist those shopping for child-safe products.

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