Window Coverings Safety Standards

Window Coverings Safety Standards

Just received this post from a friend and thought I would share it. Can you make a difference in the safety of window coverings?

Dear Industry Friends,

My involvement in cord safety standards has brought home a glaring change in our culture over my lifetime. At times our perception of the value of
human life and the moral integrity to do the right thing seems to have eroded over time.

As a child I remember distinctly being taught by my parents, by my school, and my community that life was sacred. Human life had an intrinsic value that could not be measured in dollars. This was an accepted fact in our community.

Companies had a moral compass, or at least the desire to project an image of integrity to match the expectations of society. Case in point: Johnson & Johnson. In the fall of 1982 seven people died in the Chicagoland area because of tampering with Tylenol, Johnson’s & Johnson’s best selling product. This was an unthinkable position to be in for J&J. Tampering with products was unheard of. In a show of integrity J&J, issued a massive recall immediately. Within weeks they pioneered the development of tamper-proof packaging, which started a packaging revolution. Today every product that is packaged for safety is the result of what J&J voluntarily did through superb leadership through that crisis.

During that crisis, many people initially thought that the tragedy would take Johnson& Johnson down, as well it could have. But research will find case studies of how to handle a crisis through strong leadership and integrity to survive to be an even better company on the other side. Those case studies point to Johnson & Johnson. The temptation could have been for them to say, “We didn’t do it; it’s someone else’s fault”. But they spent millions of dollars guaranteeing the ultimate in customer service….safe products.

Fast forward to today and to us – the window coverings industry. We have a similar situation. However, it is not limited to seven deaths, but about 12 deaths every year. There is an effort to persuade us to make standards that will make safe products. So far it has fallen on deaf ears.

We can argue about who is at fault with the death of a child until the cows come home. But, in the case of Johnson & Johnson, there were innocent victims that died through the clear fault of someone else. But who took responsibility? Johnson & Johnson. Can our industry say the same? You be the judge. Are we doing everything we can to eliminate cords without charging more? I think we all know the answer to that question.

There are a few bright spots on the horizon. Smaller companies like B&W Window Fashions, Stevenson & Vestal, and O’Hair are spending precious resources to try to solve the problem. All are coming up with viable solutions. If the standards pass as written, it will be a hard hill to climb to bring those products to the forefront.

Meanwhile, I keep hoping for a hero. I keep hoping that one of the big manufacturers will see the value in taking the position of leadership and integrity to come out on the side of safety for their customers.

But here is my fear. If the proposed WCMA ANSI safety standards are adopted as written, we will not have significantly safer products to sell across the spectrum of products. If I could quantify the increase in safety, I would put a value of 10% increase in safety. Yet my fear is that we as an industry will take this opportunity to tout what a good job we have done to increase safety, lulling the consuming public into the idea that corded products are ‘safe’. In the interim another 10-12 children will perish per year. Corded products are not safe; reading the warning labels will tell you that.

Mary Ann Plumlee, Founder
Workroom Association of America
Window Coverings News Magazine

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