NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—In order to comply with new safety regulations taking effect in June, churches need to replace their nursery cribs, which could already pose a danger to children and leave churches open to liability lawsuits.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission unanimously approved sweeping new safety rules, which outlaw drop-side cribs and require stronger hardware and supports. The commission said it is unlikely that existing cribs will meet the new standards.
Jim Swedenburg of the Alabama State Board of Missions served more than 10 years as a state missionary for church administration and said churches that have weekday ministries or daycares especially need to heed the new safety standards.
“If a parent had a child that was injured and the daycare was in that sense negligent in not having changed that bed, that’s going to put them at greater risk for any kind of liability judgment,” Swedenburg told Baptist Press. “In other words, nobody’s going to come around and inspect the cribs and force the church to comply, but if they don’t they’re still going to be taking a risk.”
For years, parents favored drop-side cribs because they could lower the rails on one side to more easily lift their children from the cribs.
Since 2000, drop-side cribs have been blamed in the deaths of 32 infants and toddlers and suspected in another 14 fatalities. In the past five years, more than 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled, and Congress has pushed for stronger crib safety rules.
At issue is malfunctioning hardware, including cheaper plastics or assembly problems that can lead to the drop-side rail partially detaching from the crib. A dangerous “V”-like gap between the mattress and side rail can trap a baby, causing it to suffocate or strangle.
Also, as children grow, they can apply more force to the crib by shaking it, running around in it or jumping up and down, the Associated Press said. To address this, the new safety standards affect far more than the drop side.
“A crib’s mattress support, slats and hardware are now required to be more durable and manufacturers will have to test to new more stringent requirements to prove compliance,” the commission said.
Beginning June 28, all cribs manufactured and sold must comply with the new federal standards. Some manufacturers, such as Church Interiors, which supplies cribs purchased through LifeWay Christian Stores, already are selling cribs that comply with the new standards.
Child care centers and places of public accommodation, which include churches, must use only compliant cribs that meet the new standards by Dec. 28, 2012, the commission said. Until the cribs are replaced, owners are encouraged to check the cribs frequently to make sure that all hardware is secured tightly and that there are no loose, missing or broken parts.
“A consumer should not resell, donate or give away a crib that does not meet the new crib standards, such as trying to resell the product through an online auction site or donating to a local thrift store,” the commission said. “CPSC recommends disassembling the crib before discarding it.”
Consumers can check the safety commission’s website at cpsc.gov for companies that have recalled their cribs and are providing immobilizers to secure the drop-side on cribs. But a drop-side crib, even with an immobilizer installed, will not meet the new standards.
If a crib was purchased recently, the owner can ask the retailer or manufacturer whether the crib complies with 16 CFR 1219, the new federal standard for full-size cribs, or with 16 CFR 1220, the new federal standard for non-full-size cribs.
Swedenburg said churches should comply with the law, and beyond the safety and litigation risks, incompliant churches could send a negative message to parents who may be visiting for the first time. “If (people) ... come into a preschool facility and they see a drop-side crib, they’re going to say, ‘These folks are not taking care of my kids.’
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