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From Products Liability Law Daily, April 29, 2013

Safety Advocacy Groups Petition CPSC to Ban Adult Portable Bed Rails

By Joseph Bichl

Consumer safety groups petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to either ban adult portable bed rails or create mandatory safety standards if a ban is not acceptable (In the United States of America Before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, In the Matter of the Petition of Gloria Black, The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice), Consumer Federation of America and 60 Other organizations, To Ban Adult Portable Bed Rails, To Issue Mandatory Standards for Adult Portable Bed Rails, To Require Warning Labels and to Recall Potentially Hazardous Products, April 25, 2013). In addition, the petition requested that CPSC recall the bed rails currently on the market and refund consumers.

The product. The bed rails addressed in the petition are those that are sold and marketed directly to the consumer and are intended to be used with a home-style bed, including bed rails sold in medical supply stores.

Hazards. According to the petition, entrapment and falls make up the greatest hazards presented by the bed rails. Deaths can result from asphyxiation caused by entrapment within openings of the rail or between the rail and the mattress or bed frame. Individuals attempting to climb over bed rails placed on their beds are at risk for injury as well.

CPSC statistics. A 2012 report by CPSC called "Adult Portable Bed Rail-Related Deaths, Injuries, and Potential Injuries: January 2003 to September 2012" found that there were 155 bed rail-related deaths during that nine-year period, of which 129 were people over 60 years of age. CPSC found that 94 of those fatalities took place at home, 25 in a nursing home, 15 in an assisted living facility, and 3 in hospice. In addition, the study found that 145 incidents were related to rail entrapment, and an estimated 36,900 adult portable bed rail-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms from January 2003 to December 2011.

Voluntary standards. The petition stated that the current ASTM voluntary standard (ASTM F 2085, "Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Portable Bed Rails") is inadequate to address the risks of the bed rails because its scope is limited to children’s bed rails. In fact, the ASTM standard defines "portable bed rail" as a device intended to be installed on an adult bed to prevent children from falling out of bed.

Conclusion. Ultimately, the petition requested that CPSC ban the sale of adult portable bed rails and exercise recall authority to require notices and refunds sent to consumers for portable bed rails currently on the market that present risk of entrapment, asphyxiation, or other failure that can lead to injury. Short of that, the safety groups requested that the agency establish mandatory safety standard requirements for the design of adult portable bed rails. According to the petition, the safety standard should set design standards for bed rails that reduce entrapment risks, require third-party independent testing, include warning labels in large print, and require permanently affixed manufacturer and model numbers on the product.

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