Product Safety Dominoes

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the age of global manufacturing, reporting a safety problem in one country could be the first falling domino that leads to playing the incident reporting game across a whole host of countries and continents. Knowing the regulations and the penalties and establishing a team to deal with incident reporting beforehand could keep this game of dominoes from costing manufacturers big money.

New consumer product regulations affecting the supply chain are not limited to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and its publicly available consumer product safety information database that went live in March 2011. Countries around the world are passing and enhancing regulations aimed at consumer product safety.

In 2011, the United States and Canada issued 63 joint product recalls ranging from strollers to dining tables to teddy bears to women's shoes to cell phone batteries to gas range tops. The end result to manufacturers is that an incident or recall involving one product in one country may require reporting in another country and another and another as the domino effect continues.

Manufacturers can take steps to make sure they respond in a timely, coordinated fashion to regulations, no matter where the first domino falls. In addition, important online resources can help industry learn more about and stay current on the various regulations.

The regulation minefield

The Consumer Product Safety Commission enforces the CPSIA, which requires manufacturers to report "immediately" (within 24 hours) after obtaining information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a consumer product fails to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule, contains a defect that could create a substantial product hazard, or contains a defect that creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.

Consumer product is broadly defined as "any article, or component part thereof, produced or distributed for sale to a consumer for use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise." It does not include tobacco, automobiles, pesticides, aircraft, certain vessels, drugs and food. Spend a few minutes at the CPSIAs website, www.cpsc.gov, or the reporting page at www.saferproducts. gov, and you quickly will understand the breadth of the term consumer product. Substantial product hazard means a failure to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule, or a product defect that (because of the pattern of defect, the number of defective products distributed in commerce, the severity of the risk or otherwise) creates a substantial risk of injury to the public.

Virtually anyone has the ability to submit a report of harm on the new publicly available consumer product safety information database, regardless of whether the person has personal knowledge of an incident. Although the CPSC specifically says information in the database might not be reliable, nothing prevents competitors, lawyers and others from submitting potentially misleading or meritless reports of harm. And users and consumers may give more credence to information on the database simply because it is operated by the government.

Deadlines are short after a public report of harm is submitted to the database. The CPSC has five business days to review the report for completeness and, if all of the required information is provided, send notice to the manufacturer for response. The quickest way for manufacturers to receive notice is to register at www. saferproaucts.gov. The manufacturer then has 10 business days to investigate, evaluate and determine what response, if any, it would like the CPSC to post on the database with the public repon of harm. The manufacturer may object to confidential information, which is narrowly defined as trade secrets; report materially inaccurate information, such as product misidentification; and/or make a public or private general comment that may, for example, contain detailed technical information, a request for more information, a canned response or no response at all. …