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U.S. Regulators Attempt to Eliminate Exposed Window Cord Injuries

In a recent turn of events, the makers of window blind products have become the subject of intense criticism. Indicated by industry established standards, window blind makers’ safety practices demonstrate a propensity for negligence. Subsequently, manufacturers have begun to adopt less-stringent safety policies while simultaneously ignoring the demands of federal regulators to eliminate exposed cords on window blind products. In doing so, companies are subjecting consumers to potentially dangerous products.

Critics believe that industry safety standards, which are established by the manufacturers themselves, are insufficient in their means of providing preventative measures. Safety regulators have suggested that the self-imposed standards are insufficient in providing consumers with safe household products. According to Rachel Weintraub, the director of product safety with the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America, “the industry is clinging to the status quo and is refusing to address this very dire safety issue.” In what she believes to be “tragic”, Weintraub expresses her detest for the blatant disregard for public safety.

Post-market assessments of such products have revealed potentially dangerous flaws. While exposed cords serve as a mechanism of action to operate the blinds, they pose as a potential threat. Young children may be strangled by the exposed cords if they become entangled in them. According to U.S. safety regulators, exposed cords are responsible for nearly 12 deaths a year. Recent years have witnessed approximately 200 deaths from such adverse incidents.

Concern, regarding the dangers of exposed cords, has spread to several countries across the globe. Safety regulators in the U.S., Canada and Europe told the window covering industry to enact product standards that would eliminate strangulation hazards. The proposed safety standards were intended to prevent future adverse events and included an October deadline. Subsequently, the proponents of safety regulation threatened to pass mandatory regulations if their demands were not met. Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledged the need for reform, stating that exposed cords “poses too much risk to the safety of children.”

Contradictory to the beliefs of the safety regulators, are those of industry representatives. Manufacturers have suggested that the requests issued by safety regulators are not realistically feasible. Companies believe that the exposed cords serve a practical mechanism of operation. “There’s common sense, and then there’s over-regulation,” said Edward Krenik, a lobbyist for the Window Covering Manufacturers Association. Subsequently, manufacturers are perplexed by the suggestions brought forth by the safety regulation task force. They believe their current standards are proficient in providing safe household products.

Despite regulatory attempts to make blinds safer for children, disagreement prevails over blinds and their safety standards. Regulations suggested by the industry do not meet the approval of safety regulators who think such attempts are futile. Simultaneous efforts in mediation have resulted in a stalemate on both sides.

One such attempt suggested by industry manufacturers acknowledges the need for a tie down or tension device. The pieces, which are sometimes made of plastic, fasten to the end of a looped cord that pulls blinds or shades up and down. The device is supposed to be screwed into the wall or windowsill to hold the cord taut. The blinds can then be moved up and down on a sort of pulley system.

In theory, the taut cord reduces the risk that a child can wrap it around his or her neck. However, safety advocates and regulators do not think those devices are safe because they break easily and often are not installed correctly. Advocates say that such devices demonstrate a propensity for failure, resulting in an equally dangerous situation. While theory suggests otherwise, tension devices may be the topic of future regulations. According to updated industry standards, tension devices would have to pass durability tests before they were allowed on to the U.S. market.

Another potential suggestion proposed by manufacturers includes the introduction of a new warning label on the products in question. The current proposal would require a new warning label of the following nature: “For child safety, consider cordless alternatives or products with accessible cords.” However, many believe such a warning to be futile. Linda Kaiser, founder of Parents for Window Blind Safety, questions that “ if their standard is so stringent, why do they have to put the warning on products?” Kaiser founded the organization after she lost her daughter in 2002 when she was strangled by the exposed cords next to her crib.

In the midst of such a heated debate, are several companies that offer safer alternatives to exposed cords. Some companies specialize in providing blinds with inaccessible cords. Their distinct mechanism of action includes an inclosed spring and pulley system. Similar systems include cords that are intrenched in fabric so they can not be pulled by unsuspecting children. While these mechanisms would be preferred by safety regulators, industry representatives believe they are insufficient in operating larger and heavier blinds. Therefore, would not work in millions of households around the world.

Within the next couple of months, window covering manufacturers will continue to pass their own safety standards to try to please U.S. regulators. However, Tenenbaum’s previously mentioned propositions may require industry leaders to adhere to government regulations if their self-imposed regulations are deemed insufficient. Tenenbaum’s proposition serves as a forceful attempt to eliminate future strangulations by imposing stricter regulations.

Unfortunately, the tedious process of imposing new and strict government regulations may take a long time. Regulators are required to do an extensive cost-benefit analysis of any standard before such regulations may be put in place. To issue mandatory safety requirements, regulators have to prove that the voluntary ones will not cut the risk of injury or that most manufacturers aren’t following them anyway. Though the process may take time, results will undoubtedly have overwhelming implications on future safety standards.

Do I Have an Exposed Window Cord Injury Lawsuit?

The trial lawyers at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP have decades of experience navigating through complex legislative and regulatory issues and litigating high stakes cases all over the nation. Our law firm focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in exposed window cord injury lawsuits. We are currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an exposed window cord, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For a free case review, please click the link below or call toll free 24 hrs/day 1-800-773-0849.

Categories: Product Liability
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