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Ahead of Labor Day, Warner and Kaine push for beach umbrella protection

Ahead of Labor Day, Warner and Kaine push for beach umbrella protection
Richmond Times Dispatch

~ Senators call on product safety regulators to include beach umbrellas in testing to develop new safety standards~

WASHINGTON – As Labor Day weekend approaches, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) are pressing product safety regulators to include beach umbrellas in their testing protocols as they work to develop new safety standards for umbrellas sold to consumers. It’s the latest push in the senators’ continued effort to protect beachgoers following multiple accidents involving wind-swept beach umbrellas, including in 2016, when Lottie Michelle Belk of Chester, Va. was struck in the torso and killed while vacationing in Virginia Beach with her family.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have previously pushed for increased safety measures in a 2019 letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In addition, the senators have called for a public safety campaign to educate the public about the dangers of beach umbrellas. 

“Given the grave danger posed by beach umbrellas we feel it is imperative that ASTM include beach umbrellas in any new test methods,” the senators wrote to ASTM International Subcommittee Chair Ben Favret. “Summer is in full swing, and as millions of newly vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes to spend time at the shore, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of beach umbrellas.”

ASTM International—a nonprofit that often partners with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services—last year began testing the safety and durability of the market umbrellas in various wind conditions. Unfortunately, it has continued to exclude beach umbrellas from this testing regimen, instead of limiting it to patio and weighted-base umbrellas. 

Assessing the risks associated with using certain products under specific conditions is a critical step towards developing new product safety standards, recommendations, and best practices to mitigate the risk.   

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 2,800 people sought treatment at emergency rooms for beach umbrella-related injuries from 2010-2018

The full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here:

August 31, 2021

Ben Favret

Subcommittee Chair, ASTM F15.79

ASTM International

100 Barr Harbor Drive

West Conshohocken, PA 19428

Dear Mr. Favret:

We write to urge ASTM International to update its testing method standard to account for wind speed as it relates to beach umbrellas.

As you note on your website, “[t]he deleterious effects of a Market Umbrellas [sic] being blow[n] over or broken by wind forces can range from an acute injury, such as cuts or bruises to blunt force trauma, such as concussions or broken bones and in some cases death.”  Further, you state that “[t]he lack of any voluntary standard for the safe performance of Market Umbrellas puts millions of consumers and employees around the world at risk unnecessarily.”  Indeed, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated in a June 2019 letter to the Senate, over the nine-year period from 2010-2018, an estimated 2,800 people sought treatment in emergency rooms for injuries related to beach umbrellas.  A majority of those injuries were caused by a wind-blown beach umbrella. 

In March 2021, the CPSC wrote to ASTM requesting that it “expand the standard to address fully the hazards of injuries and death due to beach umbrellas implanted in the sand.”  In addition, the agency suggested “mentioning the known fatality in the introduction of the standard, along with the injury data already there”.  We could not agree more. Given the grave danger posed by beach umbrellas, we feel it is imperative that ASTM include beach umbrellas in any new test methods.

Summer is in full swing, and as millions of newly vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes to spend time at the shore, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of beach umbrellas. We appreciate ASTM’s willingness to consider this issue.  Should you have further questions please contact Shelby Boxenbaum in Senator Menendez’s office at 202-224-4744.

Sincerely, 

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