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Monday March 20, 2017

Commissioners Hear Stories of Window Cord Activists

Commissioners March 14 heard from the survivors of two children who died in window cord incidents. Their input, which included memories of the girls and descriptions of the events, also included several themes:

  • Industry Criticism: Timothy Frink and Jeremy Eastburn respectively contrasted their conservative and libertarian pro-business political alignments with assertions that industry has been too slow to take stronger safety actions. Frink – whose granddaughter Brianna Jones died in his daughter's home in 2012 – additionally raised the issue of sacrifice. His daughter and son-in-law both are Iraq veterans, and he compared their willingness to risk their lives with what he said is industry unwillingness to risk profit.
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  • Attractiveness to Children: Both Frink and Carolyn Eastburn, whose daughter Presley died in her home in late 2016, mentioned the idea of necklaces as possible reasons why the girls might have been playing with cords.
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  • Assumption of Safety: Both sets of parents believed they had taken steps to help ensure safety. The Jones had cut the cords and initially placed them out of reach; the Eastburns had their custom unit professionally installed.
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  • Unawareness of the Risk: Both accounts involved post-event interaction with acquaintances who either had similar hazards in homes with small children or who expressed surprise at the extent of the risk.
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  • Provided Housing: Both accounts included concern for people in military or income-assisted housing who do not have a choice about potentially unsafe window covering.

The visitors called on commissioners to act on the 2013 petition that seeks a ban of accessible cords; the agency's recent regulatory agenda (PSL, 1/2/17) gave a soft target of this fall for a briefing package with a recommendation.

 

Any CPSC proposal would need to consider recent work by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association on updating its standards. The direction has included a distinction between custom and stock units (PSL, 12/12/16), with the latter getting more attention. CPSC staff early last fall (PSL, 9/19/16), wrote WCMA to support a "segmented" approach of focusing first on products that can meet updated requirements sooner rather than waiting until all can.

 

Earlier this year, prior to stepping down from the chairman position, Commissioner Elliot Kaye urged the Retail Industry Leaders Association to keep open the possibility of pulling out of the WCMA process, calling the stock/custom approach "better than nothing" but "flawed" (PSL, 1/30/17).