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New federal standards for high chairs coming in 2019

Will your seating for babies be compliant?

Millennial consumers are increasingly having babies, and restaurants are becoming more family friendly to meet their needs. Soon that may mean rethinking restaurant high chairs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CSPC, in June approved new federal standards designed to improve the safety of all high chairs, including those used in restaurants.

The new regulations incorporate voluntary standards developed by ASTM International, a nonprofit that works with manufacturers and other sectors to develop standards. The new-and-improved high chairs include features designed to enhance stability, offer warning labels and improve restraint systems.

By June 19, 2019, all high chairs made in the U.S. — or imported into the U.S. — must meet these new standards.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that restaurants must get all new high chairs. The regulations don’t require restaurants to use chairs that meet the 2018 standards.

But restaurant operators who want to have the safest product on the market — knowing that some guests will ask about it — should be aware of the new standards coming.

There’s reason for restaurant operators to be aware of the risks.

Between January 2011 and September 2017, there were 1,842 reported incidents related to high chairs, including 271 injuries and two fatalities.

From 2011 through 2016, there were an estimated 18,500 high-chair-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, according to the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, or NEISS.

Of those injuries that resulted in emergency room visits, the CSPC estimated that 1,600 were from incidents that occurred in restaurants.

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Most of the incidents were related to falls when the child attempted to climb in or out of the chair, as well as tipping over or a failure of the restraints, tray or lock.

A “high chair” is defined as a free-standing chair for a child up to 3 years old that has a seating surface more than 15-inches above the floor and elevates the child, normally for the purposes of feeding or eating.

The new standards include more restricted leg openings; a warning label about tipping hazards, a passive crotch restraint system, and a three-point seat belt, also designed to prevent the child from trying to climb out. Restaurant operators are also encouraged to register their products to be alerted in the event of a recall.

Bonnie Yatkeman, brand manager with high-chair maker Koala Kare Products, based in Centennial, Colo., said there are compliant chairs available now, and more are coming down the pike. 

Nancy Cowles, executive director of the consumer-protection-focused nonprofit Kids In Danger, said one concern is that restaurant operators who want compliant high chairs may have trouble identifying them without looking at the manufacture date of the product. There is no official certification sticker or label. 

“The standards affect things you might not see, so you’d have no way of knowing,” she said.

Yatkeman of Koala Kare, however, recommended that restaurant operators work with their suppliers to determine they’re getting chairs that meet the 2018 standards specifically.

“Someone could say their chairs are compliant, but it could be compliant with an old standard,” she said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

Correction: October 18, 2018
This story has been updated to clarify the description of ASTM International.
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