Safety standards for booster seats will no longer be a polite suggestion. On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted 4-0 to approve a new mandatory safety standard for children’s booster seats. 83 Fed. Reg. 30837. The new rule applies to booster seats used in homes and in restaurants, not the booster seats used in cars.
The new rule incorporates ASTM F2640‑‑18, the voluntary standard currently applicable to booster seats. Approved and published in April 2018, the current version sets forth safety guidelines for booster seats that are entirely voluntary. The CPSC’s vote changes that. Once, effective, the standard for booster seats will be a “final mandatory consumer product safety standard.” Manufacturers and distributors in the United States will have to follow the new standards or risk being out of compliance.
Need for Standards
Those with kids know exactly what a booster seat is—and how hard it can be to keep a child in one. It’s a “juvenile chair” for kids up to five years old, placed on an adult chair to raise the child up to standard dining table height. In contrast to traditional high chairs, booster seats allow children to eat at the table with the rest of the family, for better or for worse. The seats also help keep children safe and sitting upright while dining.
While booster seats bring convenience to parents, improper manufacturing or use can be dangerous. From January 2008 to October 2017, CPSC reported a total of 912 incidents related to booster seats—this includes 152 nonfatal and two fatal injuries. According to CPSC, injuries to the head are the most common hazard and typically happen when children fall out of booster seats. Other dangers include restraint and attachment problems, as well as lock and latch failures.
The New Standards
Recognizing these potential dangers, CPSC took action to address these observations. The new mandatory standard comes from CPSC’s mandate under Section 104(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which requires CPSC to issue consumer product safety standards for durable infant and toddler products. CPSC’s new federal safety rule for booster seats incorporates ASTM International’s most recent voluntary standard, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Booster Seats (ASTM F2460‑18).
The new regulation includes information as well as design requirements. Keeping parents informed is critical to safe use of booster seats. For example, all booster seat packaging must show the minimum dimensions of the adult chair needed for the booster seat to fit. The booster seats themselves must carry warnings, too, such as a reminder to securely fasten booster seats to adult chairs before use, or reminders to stop children from pushing away from the table while seated. Booster seats must also have an active means of attaching to an adult chair to prevent them, and any children, from falling off the chair.
Booster seat companies have time to come into compliance with the new regulations. Although the final rule was published on July 2, 2018, it does not go into effect for eighteen months. This means that products manufactured or imported on or after January 2, 2020 will have to comply. Products that don’t comply may be reportable under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, and failure to report could lead to penalties. Therefore, manufacturers and distributors of booster seats should take note of this new standard and take steps over the next 18 months to ensure their products comply.
*Co-author Hannah Yim is a summer associate in our San Diego office.