Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Consumer Protection Update: VGB & CPSIA

On April 5, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hosted a public meeting on the testing and certification procedures under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB).

The VGB requires pools and spas in the U.S. to be engineered to prevent entrapment drowning. There are several ways to accomplish this: in large pools or water attractions like those found in waterparks, the drains are usually large (18”x 23” or larger) and therefore physically unblockable*. For smaller drains, VGB-complaint drain covers are commercially available. The meeting only focused on the smaller, commercially-available drain covers, not on large, unblockable drains.

The meeting was part of an ongoing investigation by the CPSC into the methodology and results of the various organizations that certify drain covers as VGB compliant. The procedure for certifying is described in the ANSI/ASME A112.19.8-2007 Standard referenced in the VGB. However, upon investigation, the CPSC has found seemingly slight variations in the testing procedures, which are leading to varying results for the same product. The CPSC would like to clarify the testing procedure so a uniform method is used by all certifying labs, and the results of those tests are within an acceptable margin of error.

The meeting was broadcast live over the Internet, and the archived footage is available on the CPSC website. The first panel was composed of representatives from the three certifying organizations (Underwriters’ Laboratories, NSF, and IABMO). The second was drain cover manufacturers, and the third was the chairman of the A112.19.8 committee, who discussed the standards-creation process, and the committee’s work on the successor standard. The meeting was pretty technical, so waterpark operators might want to have their technical staff review the archived footage. While it doesn’t appear to directly impact waterparks, IAAPA is continuing to monitor this issue.

* These are not the only ways to be compliant with the VGB.

CPSIA Reform Legislation Considered
Earlier this month the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing on proposed legislation to make several reforms to the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act (CPSIA).

As the attractions industry knows, the CPSIA had good intentions that came along with a slew of unintended consequences. Since the enactment of the CPSIA, our industry has been calling for an amendments bill to address these consequences. A bill was introduced and heard by the Energy & Commerce committee last session, but it failed to move past the committee stage.

This hearing focused mainly on the proposed legislation, which lowers the age in the definition of “children’s product” from 12 to 7, narrows the scope of the Consumer Product Database, makes changes to the provisions addressing lead limits, and creates exemptions to the testing requirements for small-batch manufacturers.

Having discussed the reforms, the subcommittee will now create and mark-up a bill that can be voted on. Committee staff indicated the committee is looking to get this bill out of committee during the summer. Of course, timetables are never firm in Congress, but perhaps by fall we will see some CPSIA relief.

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