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30-Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode Five / Cord Safety Update for Custom Workrooms

In episode five of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock discuss the revisions to the cord safety standards introduced this year. Compliance begins December 15th, 2018, so it’s time to get up to speed! You can listen to the podcast here: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech Podcast

What are the Cord Safety Standards

Cords on window treatments like curtains, shades and blinds can pose a potential strangulation hazard to young children. This is especially important with older window coverings that may not meet the latest national standards for window cord safety.

Children can become entangled in operating cords dangling on the side, or front of the window covering, and cords on the back of shades can be pulled away from the fabric, creating a loop.

In the United States and other countries, safety standards are now in place for manufacturers, importers and retailers to follow. The United States standard, ANSI/WCMA A100.1-2018 – American National Standard for Safety of Window Covering Products, was created by a collaboration of industry organizations, government agencies, and consumer groups. Since the standards were introduced, there has been an increased awareness of cord safety and exciting product innovations.

What Workrooms Need to Know

The revised standard has segmented the market between “stock” and “custom-made” products. Stock products, like what you see sold in big-box stores, are now required to be cordless, or have inaccessible cords.

The good news for custom workrooms is that the standards recognize that corded products are still needed by a wide range of consumers for ease of use. Operating cords such as bead chain loops will still be permitted on custom products, if you comply with the cord safety requirements.

Custom Roman Shades

Although the cord safety standards apply to all window coverings including draperies, many workrooms refer to it as "the shade standard", because the standards affected how we make shades and blinds the most. If you are already fabricating to the previous cord safety standard, then you will not need to make any big changes. Vertical ring spacing is still the same; 8 inches or less. For the lift cords on the back of the shade, you can still use cord shrouds or components like Safe-T-Shade Ring Locks® to prevent the lift cords from being pulled away from the back of the shade, creating a combined loop of fabric and cord. The standard allows for no cord shroud 12 inches or less from the top of the shade.

the back of a Roman shade with ladder tape cord shroud
A combined loop of fabric and shrouded cord on the back of a Roman shade

Eliminating Operating Cords

Over the past ten years, there has been a wide range of product innovations specifically for cord safety. Spring systems have been greatly improved, and motorization is much more affordable and easy to learn and sell. By using a system that is free of an operating cord, you are eliminating that risk altogether. You still must comply to the standard for the lift cords on the back of the window treatment. Use of Clutch Systems with a Bead Chain Loop

For custom products, cord and bead chain loops are permitted when installed with a hold down device. The standards do require the device to be of a style that will not come off the bead chain without "...a sequential process of tools to be removed”. When packaging for delivery, the shade should be pulled up and the bead chain secured with a zip-tie to the device. See the video and photo below for a demonstration. Be sure that the device is on the side of the headrail that will make it inoperable! You should not be able to move the chain as shown.

The bead chain loop is secured to the tension device

Free Hanging Operating Cords on Custom Products

There is a change for operating cords on custom products that are not restrained, and this has created a little confusion. The revised standards state that “for all products with accessible operating cords which are free hanging (not restrained), the default cord length should be no more than 40% of the product height when the window covering is fully lowered". The exception is when a custom length is required to ensure user accessibility. Free hanging operating cords also require cord cleats. For bead or cord loops, a restraining device is required no matter the length (short operating cords that are loops can't be free hanging).

The Case for "Old Fashioned" Roman Shades

During the podcast, Susan addressed whether "old fashioned shades with screw eyes and cord cleats" can be made compliant. She stated that although she has "been over the standards again-and-again", she is still not certain about whether a shade made with screw eyes is compliant. "If you have ever seen the standards, you know they are very complicated. The cord safety standards are a testing standard and not a how-to-make-a-compliant-shade standard”, Susan explained. For that reason, she is having shades tested to find out if the methods she uses in her workroom, and teaches at Workroom Tech are compliant. "I included two old fashioned shades made with screw eyes and a cord cleat for testing. Once I receive the report from Bureau Veritas, I will follow up with another podcast, or on the blog" said Susan, adding "It’s important for me to be confident in what I teach and share. The information I have shared here today is to my best knowledge". Look for a follow up report on what Susan learns after testing is completed.

New Labeling Requirements and Warning Tags

There is one change that workrooms need to be aware of and that is the labeling and warning tags that are put on corded window coverings. The warning tags have been updated with new images that are more descriptive. There is also new sticker that is to be placed conspicuously on merchandising materials such as sample books. You can also apply the sticker to the outside of packaging, but that is not specified for custom products. The new tags are now available from industry suppliers like Rowley Company. You should discard older labels.

Roman shade with warning tags

Before delivery, make sure all labels and tags are attached to the specific area such as the lift cords, or operating cords. You may need more than one warning label on the window covering. If the shade is motorized or uses a spring system without an operating cord, you will still need to attach labels for the lift cords.

Another important change is that you need to put more information on the product label. This is the permanent label that is attached to the headrail, roller tube or mount board.

1. The readily distinguishable name, city, and state of the manufacturer or importer of record or fabricator.

2. The month and year of manufacture.

3. The designation of the window coverings as “custom” or “stock”; using “C” or the word “Custom” or an “S” or the word “Stock”, respectively.

4. Custom products must also include customer order information such as a name and/or purchase order number.

You can make these labels yourself with a label maker, or pre-print labels on your printer with blanks to fill in. See the example below.

Product labels for corded window coverings

Tips for Designers and Workrooms

When installing new window treatments, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and use the safety features and devices.

Stay informed of new products and changes to national standards, and educate clients about cord safety.

Learn how to use new cord free operating systems. The spring systems are greatly improved. Motorization has become much more affordable.

It is always best practice to use cord free window coverings. If your clients have old, outdated window coverings with cords, you should recommend they be removed or see if you can make them cord free. Cords can be cut off and removed from traverse curtain rods and then easily operated by hand or with a baton. Soft shades can be retrofitted with cord shrouds, or simply set in a fixed position and the cords removed.

Another practical step to ensure safety is to move all cribs, beds, furniture or toys away from windows, and only use cord free window coverings.

What Happens if Manufacturers Don't Comply?

In a press release from Window Covering Manufacturers Association (January 12, 2018) WCMA Executive Director Ralph Vasami is quoted to say “All companies who manufacture, distribute, or sell window coverings in the U.S. must comply with the voluntary safety standard or face enforcement action by the CPSC and/or be open to legal action if non-compliant products are sold”. What that enforcement or legal action would be is unknown, but it's wise to follow the cord safety standard for professional and ethical reasons.

Learn More

Read the latest announcement from the Window Covering Manufacturers Association here: WCMA Press Release

More information about cord safety can be found at the following websites:

United States

Window Covering Manufacturers Association,

Consumer Products Safety Commission,

Window Coverings Safety Council,


Canada Safety Council,

United Kingdom

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents,

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