Friday, November 6, 2009

CPSC releases CPSIA guidance document with preliminary rules for component testing and product retesting

On Friday, the CPSC issued draft guidance on component testing, retesting requirements, and one-of-a-kind items which should benefit many of our members if the CPSC grants enough time for these rules to be implemented.

In a first step toward allowing component-based testing, the CPSC's preliminary guidance would allow manufacturers to utilize testing performed by their component suppliers instead of testing each component in a finished product.

Component-based testing has been a keystone of the HTA's proposals for change and we view it as crucial to the survival of hundreds of small batch manufacturers. It would allow suppliers of our raw materials to provide a manufacturer with certification of compliance within the law, which would eliminate the need for redundant and costly unit-based testing.

We are very pleased that the CPSC rules for component-based testing included not just notions and hardware like button, zippers, and hinges, but also paint and other surface coatings such as varnish and silkscreen ink.

We welcome the CPSC's decision to allow component-based testing, which is not explicitly authorized by the CPSIA legislation. However, it will take years for our component suppliers to realize the need to perform these tests as economic pressure pushes upstream in the supply chain. We have only three months until the deadline for testing and certification on 2/10/10, which is not long enough for small manufacturers to take advantage of these new rules, which will not even be voted on until after Januray 11, 2010.

We therefore reiterate our call for an additional one year stay of enforcement. The CPSC and manufacturers alike need more time to comply. And, we urge the CPSC to announce a continued stay as soon as possible instead of waiting until the last minute as was done in January 2009.

Fridays's guidance document also addressed retesting schedules and one-of-a-kind items, which are also key concerns for our members.

The CPSC has adopted the HTA's proposal to allow an exemption to annual retesting requirements for small batch manufacturers. Basically, they're allowing a flexible retesting schedule based on risk factors and relief from retesting until the number of units produced exceeds 10,000. This is very welcome relief for our members and will help ensure the continued availability of low-volume specialty and handmade children's products.

For the first time, the CPSC addressed the unique situation of one-of-a-kind items, encouraging manufacturers to utilize component-based testing and the testing of similar products to assure compliance. We welcome the CPSC's willingness to address this issue, which is of critical importance for many of our members.

Combined with previous CPSC rule making that exempted fabric, paper, and natural materials, this ruling does a lot to address the concerns of small batch manufacturers. However, we still require adjustments that only Congress can fix, including harmonization with EU standards, flexibility on lead limits for de minimus risks such as rhinestones and brass, and legislative affirmation of component-based testing.

The CPSC has clearly shown its intention to create reasonable rules when they can. However, they have also clearly indicated that there are multiple issues in which their hands are tied by the inflexible language of the law. The time is now for Congress to address these issues and fix the CPSIA.

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