Volume 44, Issue 5 - May 2009

Issue @ Hand

Bringing It to the Table

It’s unusual for us to reprint words that have already appeared on this page, but we are making an exception this month. Here are some excerpts from an article that was first published in this column in July 2007:

“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 … 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.”

“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.

“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.”

I was very pleased to see an ASTM committee on glass furniture work on this issue shortly after the article ran. Now consider this report from CBS 4 television station in Miami earlier this month:

“An estimated 20,000 children are seriously injured every year from accidents associated with glass top furniture. Some even die from their injuries and many emergency room doctors around the country say our current laws don’t do enough to protect our kids.

Eleven-year-old Christiana Sarty died last year when she fell through a glass coffee table. According to the police report, “… nearby and inside of the table base was observed several large and medium sized shards of broken glass … an autopsy found that Sarty died as a result of heavy sudden blood loss through a puncture.” 

A report in the March [2009] issue of Pediatric Emergency Care found that between 1995 and 2007 at least 174 young children were injured when glass tables in their home suddenly shattered. Eighty percent required surgery…The ASTM standard cannot come fast enough. As I said that June nearly two years ago if we don’t act, the lawyers and regulators will.” Our industry should care enough about its customers—and the children of its customers—to get this done and quickly. 


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