Some Assembly Required
On the Scene E-Newsletter, Edition 126, November 1, 2010
If you look up “chair prank” on YouTube, you will find a plethora of videos detailing various chair antics and their victims. Although these videos can be very amusing, the reality of some accidents involving furniture is not.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that between years 2000 and 2006, there were at least 180 deaths related to furniture, television or appliances tip-overs. Most of these deaths, 80 percent of these fatalities, involved curious climbers younger than 10. Danger in the form of top heavy furniture is not often readily recognized. Manufacturers should clearly warn against this potential hazard and users should avoid altering the center of gravity when fitting the product to their needs.
Furniture can do more than fall or allow objects to fall on you. It can fail from below as well. Poorly designed, manufactured or assembled furniture can be a hazard. Furniture used for something other than its intended purpose (i.e. using a nightstand as a step ladder) can collapse and cause serious injury to the improvising party. As time goes by, maintenance takes on a greater role and the responsibility slowly shifts from the manufacturer/distributor to the owner/provider.
Some companies attempt to lower costs by transferring assembly labor to the end user (i.e. some assembly required). This allows for a smaller inventory footprint and more compact shipping as a disassembled product can be more easily fitted into a smaller container. Assuming well written assembly instructions are provided by the manufacturer, this allows part of the liability risk to be transferred to the user as well.