ANSI Outlines 'Toolbox' of Toy Safety Initiatives

Answering a call from a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives wanting an update on what is being done to bolster the safety of children's products, Lane Hallenbeck, vice president of accreditation services for the American National Standards Institute, testified on Tuesday that new compliance systems are in the works. He outlined the efforts of the Toy Safety Coordination Initiative, an ongoing partnership between ANSI and the Toy Industry Association (TIA) that is working to reinforce the toy safety system.

“The program we are developing is committed to improving product safety, not just reducing the number of recalls,” Hallenbeck told the Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Our solutions will draw from a toolbox of conformity assessment resources, including testing and inspection, systems auditing, accredited certification programs, and--of course--education and training.”

Hallenbeck updated the committee on TIA's progress since Aug. 28, when the association announced plans to implement a three-point program designed to improve the safety of toys sold in the United States. Those plans included developing a federal requirement to make safety testing and inspection mandatory (because right now it is not mandated); developing and standardizing compliance procedures that can be used industry-wide (rather than defined by individual manufacturers and retailers, as is the current practice); and harmonizing current methods used to evaluate the competence of the conformity assessment bodies that are evaluating compliance to requirements. Hallenbeck went on to describe the Initiative’s working groups on testing and reporting, process control, and design, as well as its steering committee which is comprised of representatives from all affected stakeholders, including consumer groups and the U.S. government.

The Initiative’s recommendations are targeted for broad review and approval – including a public comment period and a formal evaluation and endorsement by TIA – before year-end. Implementation is expected to begin in early 2008.

Also testifying before the subcommittee were Nancy Nord and Thomas Moore of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Joseph McGuire of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, and representatives of Hasbro, Inc., the American Academy of Pediatrics, Safe Kids Worldwide, and the Consumer Federation of America. Principally, subcommittee members and witnesses directed their attention to H.R. 4040, a new bill introduced last week to establish consumer product safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the CPSC. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/CPSC/110107%20CPSM%20Act%20Section-by-Section%20Summary.pdf.

H.R. 4040 calls for the mandatory third-party testing of children's toys and certain other products. In her response to a question about testing requirements, Nord, acting chair of the CPSC, specifically cited ANSI and TIA's Toy Safety Coordination Initiative as an example of ongoing work in this area.

A webcast of the hearing's proceedings will be made available on the Committee on Energy and Commerce Web site, http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.shtml. Hallenbeck's testimony is currently available for review and download at http://publicaa.ansi.org/sites/apdl/Documents/News%20and%20Publications/Speeches/Hallenbeck%20toy%20safety%20testimony.pdf.

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