Volume 42, Issue 7 - July 2007

Issue at Hand
An Issue Not to Table
by Deb Levy

It is long past time for this industry to develop standards for glass used in furniture. The “gentlemen’s agreements” that kept the right types of glass in furniture do not translate well to overseas manufacturers. Our offices here receive at least one phone call a week from manufacturers abroad, mostly from China, seeking to learn what codes and laws govern the use of glass in furniture. These companies seem willing and eager to follow any laws and codes that exist but, if it’s not legislated or codified, they are not going to upgrade the glass and add expense beyond what is mandated by law.

An industry can lose control of its own issue when public, political or legal outcry becomes so loud that control of that issue moves into those sectors. There are warning bells about glass in furniture ringing from all three of those areas already.

Last year, the well-known American Idol host Ryan Seacrest was injured by falling into a glass table. The story gained quite a bit of publicity throughout the country. Luckily, Seacrest wasn’t permanently injured, but he could have been. I would venture to say that none of us wants to see Seacrest—or the mother of a beautiful injured toddler for that matter—on Larry King Live talking about how the glass industry knew about this problem, yet did nothing. If we don’t act, the public will.

Now comes the call for glass standards by noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who spoke recently at the Americas’ Glass Showcase™ in Las Vegas. “I was surprised and saddened to learn there are no standards in existence. There should be,” he said. Those of us in the industry in the 1980s remember how the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) regulation of glass in and near doors was born. It was the result of an initial inquiry by a congressman with a young relative who had been injured when she ran into a sliding glass door. I don’t expect it will take too many years for that scenario to repeat itself again with glass in furniture. And, anyone around then remembers how it took nearly 20 years to “fix” CPSC’s regulations and what confusion they caused. If we don’t act, the politicians will.

Now also comes news that a class action suit against JRA Furniture over glass tabletop breakage has led that company to file for bankruptcy. JR Furniture manufactured the glass patio tables for Martha Stewart’s furniture line sold at Kmart. It is generally believed to be a shell for a Taiwanese company called JRA Century, the company that actually manufactured the tables. The website ConsumerAffairs.com reports that more than 515 readers have reported the spontaneous “shattering” of their tabletops. The CPSC is involved and has had discussions with Kmart, but no recalls have been issued. If we don’t act, the lawyers and regulators will.

The Glass Association of North America should be applauded for opening a dialogue on this subject. The issue now needs to move beyond talk. It’s time for action. If we don’t act, others surely will. If we don’t act, our industry will once again be left to pick up the pieces, and most importantly, it will not have done the right thing.

Regards, Debra Levy

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