Safety commission weighs petitions for total bed-rail ban, seeks input

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission has merged two petitions calling for a total ban on adult bed rails and will accept comments on the matter through Aug. 5, according to an entry in Tuesday's Federal Register.

One petition came from the nonprofit lobbying group Public Citizen. The other, which the CPSC labeled the “Consumer Group” petition, was submitted by bed rail activist Gloria Black, the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.* The Consumer Group petition was signed by more than 60 organizations, including the Service Employees International Union and the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs. The combined version of the petitions will be available here.

Both petitions ask the CPSC to ban adult bed rails. The requests cite CPSC data showing 155 bed rail-related fatalities between 2003 and 2012, which occurred in private homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospices. The petitions draw attention to the risks of entrapment and asphyxiation, as well as the increased likelihood of head injuries from falls involving bed rails.

No bed rail redesign would resolve these safety issues, so the rails should be banned and recalled, and consumers should in some cases be refunded, the Public Citizen petition states. The Consumer Group petition calls for the same course of action, but requests alternate actions if the CPSC does not put a full ban in place. If the agency allows adult bed rails to be sold, it should implement strict standards for design, safety reviews and warning labels, the petition states.

Warning labels alone are not an adequate response, the Consumer Group petition stresses, quoting a McKnight's article on bed rails by William Hyman, Sc.D.:

“Warnings are not an appropriate way to ‘fix' dangerous designs, unless perhaps the warning says ‘Do Not Use This Product,” Hyman wrote. “Furthermore, effective warnings must not only identify a hazard but instruct on how to avoid it, and in a way that users will be able to understand and implement.”

Click here to access the complete Federal Register entry.

*Editor's Note: The original article has been adjusted to clarify which entities submitted this petition and which signed on.
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