The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) administers the mandatory standard for product safety for the Commonwealth, and in that capacity, they are currently reviewing options for bean bag furniture.
The mandatory standard for products encasing polystyrene foam beads went into effect on 28 October 1987, and mandatory standards must be renewed every ten years or they expire. The Consumer Commission last amended the rules in 2004, but the proliferation of bean bags for babies has raised new safety questions because sleeping on the furniture could cause suffocation.
We support the changes that the government’s consumer watchdog proposes because product safety and customer satisfaction are critical to our way of doing business.
Summary of Proposed Changes to Mandatory Standard
Sleeping on a sack filled with foam beads poses suffocation risks from swallowing beads or when the conforming pockets cut off air supplies of infants and small children. Although there have been no new deaths in Australia in recent years attributable to these useful and accessible pieces of furniture, the ACCC suggests that the reason for the exemplary safety record is the high rate of compliance with the existing standard. Proposed changes include products other than chairs such as the following:
Nursing and therapeutic pillows, Footstools, Cushions, Baby bags, Novelty cushions, Lounges, Aqua bags for pools, Pet beds, Stable tables, Pillows and outdoor bean bags
Proposed Changes to Safety Laws
Bean Bags R Us supports each of the following proposed changes for all products containing polystyrene foam beads.:
1. More than One Slide Fastener
This change would clarify that bags containing more than one fastener must have child-resistant slide fasteners for each access opening.
2. Remove Any Device that Facilitates Moving Slide Fasteners’.
Tags, handles and other objects that could facilitate opening fasteners can not accompany any packaging materials of the products.
3. Include Permanent Labels that Warn of Sleeping Dangers for Children Under 12 Months Old.
Any polystyrene bead product could pose suffocation risks for infants who might be incapable of moving their heads, so permanent labels warning of the sleeping danger are required.
4. Amend Standard to Only Apply to Products with Access Openings.
Not all bags have access openings, so the standard should be amended to limit it to those products with access openings.
5. Include Cushions in the Mandatory Standard.
The standard should include cushions specifically in the rule, and all parts of the measure would apply equally to cushion devices.
6. Include the Permanent Mark or Identification of Manufacturer.
Consumers must have some way of identifying the manufacturers by permanent markings on all applicable products.
7. Allow a Second Child-resistant Closure.
The current standard imposes severe design restrictions but allowing a second opening that doesn’t exceed 110 mm in diameter and has appropriate child-resistant slide fasteners would mitigate the design problems.
8. Explain the Potential Hazard More Directly.
The current warning label needs to address the potential hazard more directly in a clear, unambiguous language.
Compliance levels with the existing standard have been high following its introduction in 1987 following the unfortunate deaths of two children who suffocated when they climbed into a bean bag and choked. The market for these products is significant because the portable cushions are affordable and accessible to manufacture, but baby bean bag versions have raised serious safety issues. We feel that forewarned is forearmed, so consumers should always understand potential product risks.
This mandatory information helps to ensure that consumers have essential safety information from product manufacturers and that products don’t cause inadvertent harm. We support these consumer protections and want our customers to enjoy any products that they buy from us and understand any potential risks that these products could generate.