Tempest in a D cup: Garment makers cry foul over padding rules
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
OTTAWA - Canadian garment manufacturers are seething over changes to Ontario regulations governing upholstered and stuffed articles that would see such items as bras and shoulder pads treated the same as mattresses and comforters.
These businesses have one message for the government -- stuff your rules.
"There's nowhere in the world that this exists -- in the world," said Elliot Lifson, president of the Canadian Apparel Federation, an Ottawa-based association that represents hundreds of companies within the garment industry.
The Ontario Upholstered and Stuffed Articles Regulation, which is enforced by the provincial Technical Standards and Safety Authority, requires that "all upholstered and stuffed articles offered for sale in Ontario must bear a label in the prescribed format."
The regulation aims to "protect the public from the use of unclean or used fillings."
But the safety authority has failed to make clear what the health concerns regarding shoulder pads -- which don't usually come directly into contact with the body -- are, Mr. Lifson said.
"I don't know where the risk is," said Mr. Lifson, who is also the vice-chairman of Montreal-based Peerless Clothing, a tailored menswear producer. "Where's the relation to safety?"
It's a good question, said Dr. Jason Rivers, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia and a practising dermatologist in Vancouver.
"There should really be no issues with this. The padded material's usually sealed in, anyway," he said, adding that in "20-odd" years of dermatology practice, he's never encountered patients with bra- or shoulder-pad-related problems.
Under the changes, which come into effect next year, bras and shoulder pads must be affixed with 2.5-centimetre-by-seven-centimetre labels, similar to those required on stuffed toys, that state the items are filled with "new material only."
Producers of padded items will have to register with the safety authority and pay an annual registration fee: $400 for manufacturers and $20 for hobbyists and crafters who work from home.
"All padded undergarments and those involved in their manufacture, importation, distribution or retailing" are expected to comply, the safety authority regulations state.
It's all a bit much for people in the industry.
"Why should we have to have a registry of the manufacturers of padded undergarments?" asked Bob Kirke, executive director of the apparel federation.
Dara Vorkapic, the safety authority's pointwoman on the regulations, was not available for comment yesterday.
In the document advising of the regulatory changes on the authority's website, Ms. Vorkapic said that the safety authority is "continually creating greater ways to serve public safety, and protect consumers against unsafe materials."
Chris Piper, an associate professor of operations at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business, said changing safety regulations are not uncommon. "It's the cost of doing business," he said. "I don't see it as a particularly unique or unusual event."
But importers may encounter problems complying with the regulations, since factories abroad typically produce garments for more than the Ontario market, he said.
Members of the Canadian Apparel Federation hope to meet with the safety authority's upholstered and stuffed articles arm to discuss the changes.
"I hope common sense will prevail," Mr. Lifson said.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
Don't we have other things to worry about?