New Canadian regulations for corded window coverings are exasperating industry officials.
The new rules came into effect in May for safety concerns, as Health Canada seeks to prevent tragedies involving children strangled in blind cords; the federal government estimates that there is on average one such death per year in Canada.
The industry insists safety is also at the forefront for manufacturers and retailers, but says the new rules are too restrictive and will result in the majority of existing products being banned.
Over the next few months, the government is focusing on education rather than law enforcement.
“I would not endorse unsafe products in any way,” said Kevin Fellner, president of Covers Designers’ Edge, a small London-based manufacturer with five outlets, including Kitchener. “It’s not a trivial problem. I wouldn’t disagree with Health Canada for taking a close look. “
But Fellner said a “wrong approach” has led to rules that go too far.
“I think what they’re going to do is prevent a lot of the safe and effective products that we already have from being sold in Canada,” he said.
Most products had already done away with dangling control cords – replacing them with chopsticks, for example – but the new rules also apply to “wireless” products that still have interior or back cords. Electric cords for motorized blinds are also now included in the new regulations which limit accessible cords of any type to a maximum length of 22 cm; the cords cannot form loops more than 44 cm in circumference either.
Cords can be longer if they require more than 35 Newtons of pulling force, beyond a child’s normal capacity, to pull them, and they retract to less than 22cm when the force is removed .
The rules apply to all custom-made, over-the-counter products sold in Canada. And manufacturers say the revised pulling force requirements are too stringent.
“If Health Canada does not make changes to the Corded Window Covering Regulations, cordless and motorized products that meet the highest safety standards will be permanently phased out from the Canadian market,” said Ralph Vasami, Executive Director of the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, in a press release. an email.
“According to a recent survey of manufacturers across Canada, more than 88 percent of shades manufactured and sold in Canada do not comply with Health Canada regulations as they are currently drafted. Complete product lines in stock from horizontal lines of vinyl, aluminum and faux wood products will be phased out of the market. “
Fellner said the situation will hurt manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
“It’s an industry that’s populated with mom and pop operations across the country, and if everyone’s in a bit of pain, they can just shut down,” he said.
The association estimates that up to 4,000 jobs could be lost in Canada as a result of the changes, and more than 200 small and medium-sized manufacturers and retailers are reporting they will be negatively affected.
For its part, Health Canada affirms that there are products in Canada today that meet the requirements; others may need an overhaul.
“The purpose of the regulations is to help eliminate the risk of strangulation to children associated with corded window coverings without prohibiting any innovation to achieve this goal,” the department said in a statement.
“There are safe and affordable window coverings that meet the requirements, that are easy to use and available for all window sizes. Even wired units can meet regulations using devices like cord sleeves and cord retractors, along with other options like motorization.
Some motorized shades run on battery or solar energy and do not require a power cord.
Canadian rules are stricter than those in the United States, which further complicates matters, Fellner said, because international manufacturers are unlikely to tailor a line of products to our standards.
“These companies are not going to pay attention to Canadian regulations, quite outright, because it’s a fairly small market… They are not going to change everything they do for Canada.”
Health Canada said its regulations further protect the safety of young children, noting that U.S. standards differ between custom and standard products.
“In Health Canada’s view, similar risks posed by products that perform similar functions should be regulated in the same way. “
The associated warnings must appear on the products, packaging and instructions.
Health Canada has said it will continue to solicit comments and work with industry to answer questions and help stakeholders comply with the new rules, but industry representatives say communication has been poor. this day.
Fellner said he would like to see the rules completely overhauled; the manufacturers association is looking for changes that include maintaining previous testing procedures and exempting power cords from the rules.
“The amendments we are calling for are not controversial and will ensure that innovative and safe products are not banned on the market,” Vasami said.