Lawsuits, Congressional hearings, media firestorms and fast-tracked changes to safety standards have created a new landscape of product safety issues in the home furnishings industry this year. To help industry executives navigate the shifting terrain, the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) has devoted its entire 2019 Regulatory Summit program to the topic of product safety.
“New testing requirements and labeling provisions in the recently updated voluntary stability standard, along with a new mandatory regulation in the State of New York, have generated more inquiries to AHFA this year than any other topics,” notes AHFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Bill Perdue. “We have expanded the Summit program to a day-and-a-half to accommodate the broad range of product safety issues executives have asked us to address.”
Top regulatory officials, legal experts and industry leaders headline the Oct. 2-3 program at The Conference Center at Guilford Technical Community College. The conference center is located less than 10 minutes from Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, NC.
Offering the event's keynote address on Wednesday, Oct. 2, is product safety legal expert Mike Gentine, an attorney with experience that includes work in federal government, private practice and corporate government relations. He served as senior counsel for the office of former CPSC Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic from 2014 to 2017 and led several efforts to reform regulations, including an initiative to reduce the paperwork burden on companies within CPSC-regulated industries. In “Today's Consumer Expectations for Product Safety,” Gentine will address current challenges to establishing and maintaining “consensus” product standards and the growing influence of media on product safety expectations - among both consumers and regulators.
Additional topics on the Oct. 2 agenda include understanding the legal concept of “foreseeable misuse,” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) plans for new tip-over testing using “dynamic force,” and a discussion of challenges faced by the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee and the consensus standard process.
A retailer panel moderated by Doug Clark, government relations liaison for Home Furnishings Association, rounds out the Oct. 2 program. Panelists from Crowley Furniture, Kansas City; City Furniture, Tamarac, FL.; and Raymour & Flanigan, Liverpool, NY, will discuss the retailer/manufacturer partnership in communicating product safety messages to consumers.
Peter Feldman, the newest commissioner on the CPSC, will close the day with an update on CPSC issues and their impact on the home furnishings industry. A reception providing attendees the opportunity to meet Feldman concludes the day.
Answering a request from last year's attendees for more “best practices” sessions, the 2019 program includes three company compliance profiles called “Theory to Practice.” These feature Gat Caperton, Gat Creek Furniture; Amy Kruse, Sauder Woodworking; and Evan Friedler, Wayfair. Each will explain how their company addresses product safety and prepares for the possibility of a product safety issue.
The Thursday, Oct. 3, agenda opens with CPSC social media specialist Joseph Galbo. Over his three years with the agency, Galbo has developed a growing following for the CPSC's Twitter and Instagram feeds by mixing mundane (but important) safety messages with absurd memes. He has been invited to bring some new ideas to the home furnishings industry on how to communicate sensitive topics. His goal is to kickstart an industry conversation about how CPSC and industry can work together to get consumers to pay attention to furniture safety messages.
The half-day program on Oct. 3 also includes how to establish a product safety audit program, an update on the UL Stability Verified program and everything companies need to know about the new furniture stability warning labels. AHFA will close the program with a toolkit of best practices every company can use to give product safety messages increased prominence.
Conference Center doors will open at 8 a.m. on Oct. 2. The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and includes lunch and the cocktail reception with Commissioner Feldman. Doors will open at 7:30 a.m. on October 3. The Thursday program runs from 8 a.m. to noon.
Advance registration is required and can be completed online. The cost is $199 for AHFA members and $499 for non-members.
A limited number of accommodations at a group rate are available at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Greensboro Airport, just seven minutes from the GTCC Conference Center. A link to the hotel is provided on the conference registration page.