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CPSC Proposes to Allow Staff Participation in Voluntary Standards Groups

Friday, September 20, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a proposed rule that would allow its employees to participate as voting members and accept leadership positions in voluntary standards development groups, subject to prior approval by the Office of the Executive Director. Comments on this proposal are due no later than Oct. 21.

Voluntary standards development activities for consumer products within the Commission’s jurisdiction are handled primarily by three organizations: ASTM International (previously called the American Society for Testing and Materials), the American National Standards Institute and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Existing regulations prohibit CPSC staff from voting and holding leadership positions in these groups; instead, staff members participate in the voluntary standards development process by providing expert advice, technical assistance and information based on analyses of the numbers and causes of deaths, injuries or incidents associated with a product. Staff may also conduct CPSC research, perform laboratory tests and provide draft language for a voluntary standard.

The CPSC is now proposing to remove these restrictions based on a number of factors. First, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 gave rise to the expectation that, for certain children’s products, voluntary standards would form the basis for mandatory standards development. Second, Congress has directed federal agencies to “use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies” and to “participate with such bodies in the development of technical standards.” Third, the Government Accountability Office issued in May 2012 a report concluding that allowing CPSC staff to participate more actively in voluntary standards activities and to vote on voluntary standards could result in stronger standards without compromising the CPSC’s independence.

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