Co.Design

The Best High Chair In The World Is Banned In The U.S.A.

This smart high chair solves an age-old problem, but inflexible U.S. regulations ignore advancements in design.

A toddler stands up proudly in their high chair, they lose their balance and they take a tumble. The result can cause some traumatic injuries. In response, every high chair sold in the U.S. is required to come with a safety harness.

But how does just adding on a harness ensure that a busy parent will remember (or be willing) to use it every time? Or, for that matter, how does including a harness in a box even ensure that a parent will even install it in the first place?

The BabyBjörn High Chair, a Red Dot winner dreamed up by Ergonomidesign, cleverly solves these problems. Rather than harnessing in a child to be fed from a high chair’s tray table, the tray table simply becomes the harness. The surface locks the child down like they’re going on a roller-coaster ride.

"We wanted to make a chair where you, the parent or caretaker, automatically make sure the child is securely fastened," project lead Håkan Bergkvist tells Co.Design. "On our chair all you have to do is flip up the adjustable table and the child is secured."

In other words, if you want to feed your child—the whole purpose of putting them in that high chair in the first place—you’ll need to flip up the harnessing mechanism. By tying safety to the BabyBjörn High Chair’s primary function, smart design necessitates that the chair will always be used safely. There’s simply no alternative.

Yet ironically, the BabyBjörn High Chair’s safety mechanism is so invisible that it doesn’t meet U.S. regulations. "Because of standard requirements in the U.S., the chair is also equipped with a traditional harness there," Bergkvist tells us.

It’s a shame. Bergkvist’s team was "left free to start from scratch" with the design, to dream up a better solution to chairs with complicated straps. (Which they did.) That design will be unadulterated across Europe, where no such harness standards exist. But in the U.S., parents receive an overbuilt solution, wasting both their time (the very existence of a strap implies that it should be used), their money (someone has to pay for this extra component), and material resources (if BabyBjörn sells 20,000 of these chairs, that’s a lot of fabric that we never needed to produce).

The purpose of iterative design is to approach known ideas in a better way. By their very nature, the most watershed designs probably won’t have been considered before—they’re new ideas because they’re new ideas. So how can anyone be expected to dream up the products of the future when they’re boxed in by the semantic limitations of the past? Or, maybe more importantly, why should they?

Buy it here.

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15 Comments

  • Court Kizer

    Apparently the designers of this product are either idiots or liars. This chair would be completely legal in the US. I think what they are bitching about is that they hired a law firm to handle the import, but they didn't specify that the safety hardness was built in properly so it was rejected.

    It would pass just fine, and there are several products in the US who are built JUST LIKE THIS.

  • jesse.c

    Huh.  This seems like a pretty good example of over-dramatization by the media to make a story sound more compelling to read.  You own story conflicts with your headline by saying the chair is not in fact banned, but is simple sold with a harness in the US.

    I don't see what the big deal is.  So the chair has a harness.  Does that somehow make the clever  tray design, which overcomes the problems of the harness, less valuable?  With two kids, I know they can wiggle and snake out of just about anything - it seems that having the kid-retaining-tray, and a double safety in the form of a harness would be beneficial by making double sure your child can't fall out!

  • Marcello Damasceno

    Actually, the US version of this product comes with a harness. Good and clever design, but still too expensive for a few pounds worth of injected plastic.

  • dupridog

    So weird that's it banned in the US, but available at ToysRUs, Amazon, etc. 

  • designbyanjum

     Mark--Your story is not 100% accurate. High Chair harnesses do not come in a box. US law requires that they be attached to the product. Name one high chair sold in the US where the harness is not attached already to the product.

    On a side note to the FastCo team. I love this site but I continue to be frustrated by the repeated lack of fact-checking.

  • Tsthoe

    That is a litigation happy society. Fear of suit or increase in rates or loss of insurance have caused many things we enjoy to be taken away or clamped down on severely. Blame a society that loves to sue for every possible thing.

  • michaelfillier

    They should just develop a strap and throw it in the box like the competitors. It's the parent's responsibility anyways right? If people don't use it, it is not the fault of the designers.

  • Romey Ritter

    The safety harness, used exactly according to manufacturers directions, did not stop my 1yr old from wiggling his tiny hips out, standing on his chair, then falling to the ground--head first. 

    A few hours in the ER revealed he had a concussion. Makes me so glad for the regulations...(please note the sarcasm).

    We ditched the useless chair and it's harnesses.

  • Rich Norris

    Rich
      This is a great IDEA. And there lies the problem. I invested a fortune in some stupid IDEA like Biometric Identification. Taking a digital image of your Iris, the one thing that never changes your whole life, was w a y to future for this government. Their reason... we have finger printing... go figure!! GOOD LUCK GUYS!  

  • John

    On a similar note, the isofix system for attaching kids car seats into cars is banned in Australia. Some local government official has deemed it unsafe even though it is uniform in all european cars who are reasonably safe as far as i can tell....

    We need to have this insane elaborate seatbelt felt through the seat and a tether to a hook in the floor.

    The clown in the U.S who says that beautifully resolved highchair needs a harness has an Australian brother. Idiots the pair of them.

  • Gary

    Actually, that's beauracracy for you, not a failing found exclusively in America. I agree with John's comments about the idiot brothers.