Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CPSIA -- ICPHSO Update - Remarks of Jay Howell on Hazard Reduction

Remarks of the CPSC's Jay Howell on Hazard Identification and Reduction (again, this is not a transcript, just the points I found interesting or notable on issues typically discussed here):

Reasonable Testing Program is applicable for "non-children's products". There are several elements to this:
  • product specs
  • applicable certification test
  • product testing plan
  • remedial action plans
  • program design and implementation documentation

Howell says these are common sense good business practices. I agree, by and large. Some of this is bureaucratic, however, and sets expectations better suited to mass market businesses than to small businesses. Will small businesses devote the considerable resources to this kind of paper pushing? If not, do these requirements set up those small businesses for possible big penalties? Perhaps.

Howell also discussed the need for "event-triggered testing". Again, this is mainly common sense. On "periodic testing", Howell acknowledges that there is no "one size fits all" answer to questions of frequency. He points out that testing frequency relates to the potential size of recalls. The more frequently you test, the smaller the batch size and the smaller the potential recall (with tracking labels). This is interesting if they actually will allow businesses to make this assessment themselves. The ability to make risk-reward choices would be a step in the right direction. One can only hope . . . .

He advises that you consider these factors:

  • severity of possible injury
  • production volume
  • variability in test results
  • test results close to applicable limits
  • testing costs
  • product complexity or uniqueness
  • hidden hazards
  • history of incident reports, warranty claims and returns.

Again, I consider this list to be sensible and basically a description of how to make a "duty of care" decision about your products. This kind of coaching by the CPSC is highly constructive and valuable. My only worry is whether this is a set-up for gotchas. I hope to someday restore my trust of the agency so that I can stop worrying about gotchas. This could be a "gotcha". The CPSC needs to make sure that coaching is coaching, not a set-up.

The CPSC is sensitive to the issues of small volume producers, custom products, and the need for component part testing rules. There are a lot of issues buried in here. WATCH OUT for these rule releases and REMEMBER that your silence will be taken as TACIT APPROVAL. You will NEED TO send in detailed comments.

Jay also confirmed to me earlier today that the CPSC is now doing some recalls jointly with Health Canada. I noticed this last week but don't know when it started. Not sure whether this is good or bad, especially since safety issues for manufacturers should be dealt with across all sales regions. Not sure how this will affect costs or risk. Legal actions in other countries can be excruciatingly expensive, and if encountered, has the potential to kill small businesses instantly.

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