CPSC Draft Guidance on CPSIA Testing and Certification

November 9, 2009

The CPSC has released their long-awaited draft guidance document regarding CPSIA Testing and Certification, which will be voted on by the Commission.  The draft document includes valuable information that will help the industry understand the CPSC’s current position and considerations on a variety of topics, including what constitutes a reasonable testing program, recommended testing frequency, considerations for sample size, and component testing possibilities.  The document also includes clarification on certification requirements.  While it does not include the level of detail and definitive answers that some may have been hoping for (myself included), it does include good information to help the industry make some decisions regarding CPSIA testing and certification requirements.  Let’s look at some of the testing highlights of this document. 


Five Essential Elements of a Reasonable Test Program

  1. Product specifications including applicable safety rules, standards, etc.  It’s important to know what your product needs to comply with!
  2. Certification tests that demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety rules, standards, etc.  It is from these tests that CPSIA Certificates can be issued (remember that children’s products will require third party testing).
  3. Production testing plan.  This is the testing that demonstrates continued compliance of ongoing production.
  4. Remedial action plan.  This is what should be done if non-conforming results occur.
  5. Documentation of the reasonable testing program and how it is implemented.


Periodic Testing of Children’s Products (Testing Frequency)

CPSC “strongly encourages” annual testing at a minimum and this periodic testing must be performed by a CPSC-recognized third party lab.  More frequent testing is recommended if non-compliance poses a substantial product hazard (for example, a small part detachment from an infant item).  Changes in production may also necessitate either more frequent testing, or completely new certification tests.  Changes in production can include new equipment, new component suppliers, material change, and many other variations.  For small volumes, CPSC recommends testing at least every 10,000 pieces produced (if less than 10,000 pieces are produced in a year).  Any changes in production may necessitate more frequent testing even for the small volumes.


Testing Sample Size

Unfortunately, the Commission did not prescribe any specific sample size.  They did provide some factors to consider, including:

-         Whether testing is destructive

-         Testing costs

-         Specific aspects of the product (substantial product hazard if testing failure)

-         Similarities to other (tested) product

-         Production quantity

-         Likelihood of non-compliance

-         Customer complaints or product returns related to compliance


Note that the CPSC does include sample size parameters (12 pieces) in their 1981 Engineering Test Manual, which is not referenced in this new Guidance Document.  In my opinion, the CPSC’s test sample size should be another factor to consider. 


Component Testing

This is a major issue, and CPSC is working on a separate enforcement policy to address testing of components for lead paint and lead content compliance.  In this Guidance Document, the CPSC has advised the following regarding component testing:

·                     Manufacturer can rely on third party test data from component manufacturer or supplier, provided the testing meets all CPSC requirements, that there has been no material change in the component since testing was performed, and provided that nothing in the manufacturing process would have affected test results of the component.  Manufacturer is ultimately responsible for product compliance.

·                     There must be sufficient traceability of the tested components to the finished product.

·                     For lead in paint, “spray-samples” may be tested.  This is particularly useful for small painted areas in which numerous samples would be required in order to obtain sufficient sample size for testing.  In this case, the paint can be applied to larger area of product (or entire product) to provide sufficient painted decoration for testing.  This would apply to stamped decorations as well, whereby multiple stamps can be applied to product.

·                     Where multiple colors are applied to a small area (such as doll eyes) or where multiple colors are used to create realistic skin effects, either the individual paints can be certified or composite testing can be performed (with appropriate parameters).

·                     Components separate from finished product can be tested.  An example of this is buttons, which can be tested for lead compliance and then used on a variety of children’s products, with appropriate traceability and provided the manufacturing process of finished product would not affect compliance.

·                     Raw materials testing is acceptable only if there is “no possibility of a material change into or onto the component during processing.”  In most cases, the finished component rather than raw materials should be tested.

·                     Testing of the finished product is required for certain tests, including mechanical safety (use and abuse) and flammability of toys. 


While this guidance document does not provide all the answers, it is a start.  CPSC will be holding a two-day workshop, on December 10 and 11, to further review testing and certification issues.  I will be attending and will provide additional information on these issues in future blogs.