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Understanding New Regulations for Nursery Equipment
By: Clifford Thiesen

Church nursery coordinators, as well as other child care providers, need to become very familiar with the dates June 28, 2011, and December 28, 2012.

On December 15, 2010, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) passed unprecedented rulings that will affect all crib manufacturers, crib retailers, and child care providers within the United States.  The ruling bans the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs.  It also bans the use of all drop-side cribs by all child care providers without regard to when the crib was purchased or who manufactured or sold the crib. This is not a recall but a change of rules as mandated by the United States Government.

The ASTM is an organization that publishes voluntary standards for materials, products, systems, and services. The new CPSC requirements were based upon recommendation ASTM F1169-10 (for full size cribs) and ASTM F406-10 (for non-full size cribs). However, the CPSC added additional requirements for testing, attachment bolts, and labeling to those ASTM recommendations when issuing their new federal requirements. In October 2010, the ASTM updated their crib standards to comply with the then-proposed CPSC regulations. 

Virtually all cribs previously sold within the United States are out of compliance to the new standards, even if they are non-drop side. It is important to know that cribs manufactured to meet previous ASTM recommendations may not be compliant to these new CPSC requirements, even if they do not have a drop side.

The new CPSC ruling becomes effective June 28, 2011. Churches will then have an additional 18 months to comply. The final compliance deadline is December 28, 2012. The CPSC ruling is final and no longer open to comment or consideration, and, by federal law, it must be followed.  Retrofitting of existing cribs to prevent the drop side from moving will not be allowed.   Replacement of drop-side cribs is required. Existing drop-side cribs, including stacking cribs, are required to be destroyed. Donating the drop-side cribs to individuals, thrift stores, or other organizations is not recommended, as they are prohibited from reselling them. The CPSC also recommends that drop-side cribs be disposed of in such a manner as to prevent their reuse.

The reasoning for this new law is based upon the number of injuries and deaths associated with drop-side cribs. Over the past few years, thousands of cribs have faced recalls due to poor design, inferior craftsmanship, lack of proper maintenance, and hardware and structure failure. 

Many people are unaware of the difference between a recall and what is happening now with these new regulations. In simple terms, a recall is usually based upon specific and serious problems with a particular manufacturer's product. Often, the manufacturer is required to replace the product or offer repair solutions.

These new regulations aren't a recall but are instead a whole new directive that is industry-wide. Under the new regulations, all crib designs must be tested for compliance to those regulations.  These tests must be performed at a third-party laboratory that is approved by the CPSC.  

Even though cribs are tested, it does not mean that all cribs are created equal. When replacing your cribs, there are a number of factors you may wish to consider. One of the first is the reliability and history of the manufacturer. Many will remember the news articles that appeared in January 2009 reporting a CPSC mandated recall issued on more than 500,000 cribs. In May of that same year, news articles warned of another recall on an additional 96,000 cribs made by a different manufacturer. 

One of the ways to check the historical reliability of the manufacturer is to see if their cribs have appeared on the CPSC recall list. The list will give the brand name and/ or the manufacturer of the crib. If you care to research the details, you will find recalls that occurred due to the failure of hardware, collapsing mattress rests, and other defects. 

Also of consideration is the size of your room, the age of the children using the crib, visibility for child care workers, and the type of equipment required. Most child care environments are required to conduct periodic evacuation drills. These drills should include the removal of all children from the premises. The most efficient way to do this with infants and young toddlers is to put the recommended number of children in a single crib and then to remove that crib to the outside of the building. Typically, the approved ratio of child care is four infants to one provider.  There should be one evacuation crib for every four infants.

Having wheels on a crib does not necessarily make it suitable for this activity. There are evacuation cribs sold by quality manufacturers that are made specifically for this purpose.   When not in use for drills, these cribs are intended for sleeping purposes and will therefore require no wasted floor space.

Today's generation of parents is working, volunteering, and overstretched for time. They won't waste this precious commodity on activities that aren't meaningful to them or their children.  They are less traditional than past generations and won't hesitate to move on if their needs aren't being met. Very important to families is the quality of offered child care and programs. The physical environment, which includes the furniture you use, can go a long way toward showing parents that you are offering a place for their children that is warm, natural, inviting, and safe.   Research indicates that rooms that evoke an open, natural, home-like feel reduce stress for both caregivers and the children. It also tends to foster an atmosphere that invites creative play.  

Particularly in multi-age environments, it is important to place furniture and activities in zones.  This reduces a tendency for active children to run through other's more quiet pursuits. There are portable, multi-functional products on the market designed for the purpose of creating those zones within a single room child care environment, while maintaining full caregiver visibility.   As always, safety is the highest concern, and having a clear view of all children, both active and sleeping, is important.

Wood furniture that has a light or natural finish is easier to maintain and aids in giving your room a light and clean feel. Not only are rounded corners important for safety, they are also more pleasing to the eye and to the touch. Furniture made specifically for children is required to have finishes low in harmful chemicals, such as lead and phthalates. California has the toughest standard in the nation with regard to the question of off gassing from formaldehyde in composite wood materials. Products that are made or sold in or from California are required to comply with those standards in an effort to reduce or eliminate certain types of cancer.

 Many parents and child care workers are concerned about the environment and are looking for products that are sustainable. There are cribs available that are made from certified sustainable woods. Important to both sustainability and financial consideration is the anticipated longevity of the crib. Many cribs made primarily for the home are designed to withstand only a few years of use. Cribs manufactured specifically for the child care market are intended for extended and heavy use. They may cost a little more to purchase but may be a better value over the long run.  They will require replacement on a lot less frequent basis, which will save money overall and will keep more products out of the landfill.

Clifford Thiesen is president of Nursery Maid, www.nurserymaid.com.

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