The Consumer Products Safety Commission yesterday voted to establish a "meaningful relationship" with the chain saw industry.

The action came during discussion at a commission meeting of an industry proposal to establish voluntary safety standards for chain saws with the help of the CPSC staff.

The unprecedented cooperative effort calls for CPSC engineers and staffers to maintain a close working relationship with the Chain Saw Manufacturers Associations in its testing and data gathering operation.

In March, attorney John Purtle asked the commission to establish mandatory safety standards for chain saws, to reduce or eliminate injuries from "kickback" of the saw during use.

Yesterday the commission voted on Purtle's petition. The filing of his petition, however, had triggered the chain saw industry spokesman to express a desire to develop voluntary standards, in the hope they could head off mandatory standards.

According to CPSC staff members, the manufacturer's association presented an impressive plan to the commission calling for a joint effort aimed at voluntary standards.

At yesterday's presentation, CPSC Program Manager for Power Equipment William Kitzes said the innovative plan "has the potential to work, and help us come to grips with the kickback problem."

The proposal calls for CPSC staff "participation" in the testing process, and gives the agency the opportunity at any time to back out and establish own mandatory standards if it feels the industry isn't moving fast enough.

Commissioner R. David Pittle objected to the word "participate." He said he was concerned that the word might imply commission endorsement of industry efforts before it had time to evaluate the testing process.

"I am also uncomfortable with a proposal by an industry to have a voluntary standard developed when we're on the verge of a mandatory standard," Pittle said.

Commissioner Barbara Franklin, usually a proponent of industry-set voluntary standards, also expressed concern based on a poor showing by chain saw representatives at a previous work session.

In order to break a deadlock over the word "participation," CPSC Executive Director Mike Brown suggested comparing "participation to marriage, and monitoring to having a meaningful relationship."

With the new wording in place, the CPSC deferred action on Purtle's request for mandatory standards. It authorized its staff to "ask questions and observe" while monitoring industry testing for at least a "three-month meaningful relationship."