August 6, 2019

On July 26, 2019, the Commission by a vote of 3-2 denied a second petition by the National Floor Safety Institute (NSFI) to require manufacturers of floor coverings and coatings to label their products’ slip resistance in accordance with an ANSI standard for floor coverings.[1]  We voted to grant the petition because we believe that slips and falls on floors remain a serious public health hazard, and there is sufficient information at this stage upon which to open a rulemaking proceeding under section 27(e) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA).[2]

CPSC staff recommended denying the petition based on perceived flaws with the ANSI standard in conveying the risks associated with flooring.  These flaws included: (1) the lack of consistency and accuracy among the various test methods of measuring the Coefficient of Friction (COF); (2) insufficient evidence to support the assertion that a high COF value leads to a decreased hazard of slips and falls; and (3) the fact that COF is only one of a number of factors involved in a slip-and-fall.[3]  However, these outstanding issues are not a sufficient reason to deny this petition.  When it grants a rulemaking petition, the Commission is not binding itself to a specific approach or particular outcome.[4]  Instead, it is simply committing to begin a rulemaking process based on whether it believes that a product presents an unreasonable risk of injury and a rule is necessary to eliminate or reduce that risk relative to the Commission’s priorities and resources.[5]  Slips and falls on floors remain a serious public health hazard.[6]  We support the agency seeking to address the hazard by working toward the development of an approach to measuring COF or some other safety metric that will inform the public at the point of purchase and assist consumers in evaluating the relative safety of their flooring.  

 

[1] American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B101.5-2014, Standard Guide for Uniform Labeling Method for Identifying the Wet Static and Wet Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (Traction) of Floor Covering, Floor Coverings with Coatings, and Treated Floor Covering.

[2] NFSI’s first petition also was denied by a majority of the Commission on December 13, 2016.  At that time, we dissented from the majority and voted to defer a decision on the petition and direct staff to collect additional information regarding the feasibility of action under section 27(e) of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. § 2076(e).  Section 27(e) states:

The Commission may by rule require any manufacturer of consumer products to provide to the Commission such performance and technical data related to performance and safety as may be required to carry out the purposes of this Act, and to give such notification of such performance and technical data at the time of original purchase to prospective purchasers and to the first purchaser of such product for purposes other than resale, as it determines necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act.

[3] Staff Briefing Package at 6.

[4] See 16 C.F.R. § 1051.10(b) (“Granting a petition and beginning a proceeding does not necessarily mean that the Commission will issue, amend or revoke the rule as requested in the petition.”).

[5] See 16 C.F.R. § 1051.9 (setting forth the factors the Commission considers in deciding whether to grant or deny a petition). 

[6]  We believe that falls are one of the ten most persistent safety hazards that the Commission faces.  See Commissioner Kaye’s paper on those hazards at https://cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/Commissioner%20Kaye%20Consumer%20Product%20Safety%20Persistent%20Hazards%20Paper%20%20April%202019%20%28Final%29_0.pdf?BB56H79uw_kQ6dDVAa4bjSlfmIlJkOio