One of the key roles for the CPSC is to educate consumers about safety in their daily lives, ranging from Halloween costumes and holiday lights to carbon monoxide from generators and cribs with faulty parts. I am alarmed, then, that the agency’s leadership apparently decided to put process before safety when it comes to window blinds.
For many years, the CPSC co-sponsored National Window Covering Safety Month with the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC). (This is one of the many cooperative safety efforts the agency co-sponsors with outside groups on a regular basis.) With more than two billion window coverings in American homes, it is imperative to educate consumers about reducing accidents related to this widely-used consumer product. The risk is that small children may become entangled in window-covering cords and strangle. The CPSC did not collaborate with the WCSC on this important message this year.
I disagree with this decision for two key reasons. First, some speculate that the agency’s leadership did not want to associate the agency with the WCSC because the ANSI standard-writing process was supposedly not moving in the right direction. But the WCSC is an independent group of manufacturers, retailers, and importers and is not involved in developing the standards at ANSI. So not collaborating with the WCSC on general safety messages appears counter-productive and unjustifiably punitive.
Second, the new standards will not deal with any risk that may exist with the vast majority of already-installed window coverings. In light of this, shouldn’t we use every major communication tool to inform consumers how to safely use window coverings currently in place?
People should be outraged if government information that might prevent an injury or death is not fully disseminated because of concerns about who has what position on writing a future product safety standard. Consumer safety should not be held hostage.