New Play Yard Safety Standards – What Does it Mean?

February 28, 2013 — By

New Play Yard Safety Standards

New safety standards for play yards, also called travel yards or playpens, go into effect today, February 28, 2013. We have received a number of questions about what these new standards mean for consumers and for those who intended to give away or sell their used play yards. In this post, we summarize the new rules and standards.

Background

Part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) required the CPSC to develop mandatory safety standards for various durable infant and toddler goods. Previously, safety standards for these items were largely voluntary. The new mandatory standards were to be at least as stringent as the voluntary standards and more stringent if it was determined that additional safety requirements could further reduce the risk of injury. For the past three years, new standards have been rolled out for cribs, children’s bed rails, baby bath seats, baby walkers, infant swings and toddler beds. The latest is for play yards.

What is Considered a Play Yard?

Although there are similarities to non-full sized cribs, to avoid confusion, play yards are defined as a “framed enclosure that includes a floor and has mesh or fabric sided panels primarily intended to provide a play or sleeping environment for children. It may fold for storage or travel.” Play yards are intended for children who are less than 35 inches tall, who cannot climb out of the product.

New Standards

Play yards that meet the new safety standard must have:

  • Side rails that do not form a sharp V when the product is folded. This prevents a child from strangling in the side rail.
  • Stronger corner brackets to prevent sharp-edged cracks and to prevent a side-rail collapse.
  • Sturdier mattress attachments to the play yard floor to prevent children from getting trapped or hurt.

Who Must Comply with the New Standards?

There is an important distinction between the new crib standards and the new play yard standards. For cribs, on the day the new standard went into effect, July 28, 2011, it became unlawful for anyone to sell, offer for use, or otherwise place into the “stream of commerce” any crib that does not meet the new safety standards. Childcare facilities and places of public accommodation such as hotels were not required to comply until December 28, 2012.

For play yards, the new safety standards only apply to play yards that are manufactured or imported on or after February 28, 2013. Here is the language from the final rulings for each of the new standards:

Cribs

The crib standards will apply to anyone who manufactures, distributes, or contracts to sell a crib; to child care facilities, family child care homes, and others holding themselves out to be knowledgeable about cribs; to anyone who leases, sublets, or otherwise places a crib in the stream of commerce; and to owners and operators of places of public accommodation affecting commerce. (16 CFR Parts 1219, 1220, and 1500, Final Rule)

Play Yards

This rule is effective on February 28, 2013 and will apply to all play yards manufactured or imported on or after that date. (16 CFR Part 1221, Final Rule)

However, there could be room for interpretation in the play yard final rule. In the Certification section, the CPSC states, “Once in effect, the final rule on play yards will make it unlawful for anyone to manufacture, distribute, or import a play yard into the United States that is not in conformity with the standard. (Emphasis added.)

It is unclear what the meaning of “distribute” is in this context and whether or not the CPSC is over-reaching on the interpretation of Congress’s mandate via the CPSIA. Given that other safety standards promulgated under the same section of the CPSIA did not include language that would indicate distribution is included, nor did the CPSC’s own summary of the new standards include any mention of banning distribution, we are guessing that this is an error, but we are inquiring with the CPSC to be sure.

Implications for Selling Used Play Yards

Unlike the new crib standards that made it illegal to sell any older model crib as of the effective date of the new standards, older model play yards that do not meet the new safety standards can still be legally sold.

Play yards that do not meet the new standards are NOT automatically recalled, however it remains illegal to sell any product that has been recalled, so as always, it is imperative that resellers and consignors check play yards for recalls.

Although it is not illegal, we encourage consignors to reconsider selling any item that is known not to comply with the latest safety standards.

What’s the Impact?

The new safety standards are an important move in making these popular and helpful products as safe as possible. The true impact of making the standards mandatory, however, is hard to tell. Many manufacturers of play yards already comply with the ASTM voluntary standards on which the new mandatory standards are based. According to the CPSC, 21 US firms manufacture and/or import play yards and, according the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JMPA), 12 manufacturers that make play yards and/or non-full sized cribs are part of their certification program, which assures that the ASTM standards are followed. It is likely that other manufacturers that are not JPMA certified also already comply with the standards, which, before today, were voluntary.

That being said, even if all manufactures of play yards were already complying with the new safety standards, today’s shift from voluntary to mandatory standards is important. The change will give the CPSC additional leverage, making it easier to force a recall if a company that violates a standard is unwilling to conduct a recall voluntarily, for example.

What to do about Old Play Yards

  • If you are able, consider replacing the old play yard with one that meets the new safety standards.
  • If you are planning to sell an older play yard that does not meet the new standards, reconsider.  Ask yourself if this something you would want any child to sleep in, knowing there are safer models available.
  • If you are keeping (or planning to sell) your play yard, mitigate the risks as much as possible.
    Here are a few tips:

    • Make sure your play yard has not been recalled. See a list of recalled play yards and related accessories here.
    • Do not place extra items such as blankets, pillows or toys in the play yard with your child if it is being used as a sleep environment or if your child is unattended.
    • Check for large openings or tears in the fabric or mesh.
    • Look for unraveled or loose stitching and any parts that could easily break or tear off, including labels.
    • Tighten loose wheels and hardware per manufacturers’ instructions on a regular basis.
    • Check that the mattress pads are properly attached before every use and ONLY use mattresses sold with the play yard or provided by the play yard manufacturer specifically for your model.
    • Before placing baby in the play yard, ensure the rails are tight and locked into position.
    • If ANY part of the play yard is damaged or missing, stop using it and contact the manufacturer to determine if it can be SAFELY repaired. Do NOT try to repair the play yard on your own. Often, “make-shift” repairs do more harm than good.
  • Lastly, if your child is old enough to start climbing or is three feet or taller, the play yard is no longer a safe place for him or her to sleep. A toddler bed in a child-proofed room is a much better option.

A Final Note

The new play yard standard is one of many safety standards that the CPSC has passed as part of the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act, or what is often referred to as “Danny’s Law.” Danny Keysar was killed in Chicago in 1998 when a previously recalled play yard in which he was napping collapsed, suffocating him.

This new play yard standard was completed in honor of Danny and his family. Kids In Danger (KID), founded by Danny’s parents, has been working for this day for the past fifteen years – we honor them and thank them for their tireless efforts.
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2 Comments

  1. Felicity says:

    Thanks for breaking this down! We’ve linked to this post on our site.