Thursday, April 22, 2010

CPSIA - But Who Will Test the Test Lab Testing Testers???

Demonstrating that creative, innovative flair we look for in our regulatory agencies, the CPSC has just announced its discovery of a much-needed new testing protocol, the test lab testing tester. Okay, so you say someone's been playing with their clacker balls a bit too much, but heck, they gotta know what they're doing, right?

Embedded deep in the impressively long 160-pager entitled "Proposed Rule: Testing and Labeling Pertaining to Product Certification, April 1, 2010", the CPSC reveals that there's trouble in La-La-Land over variances between lab tests performed at different certified labs: "Another comment noted that variations in sample preparation by conformity assessment bodies can and do lead to differing test results. One comment, noting lab-to-lab variations in test results for the same product, suggested that CPSC should require CPSC-recognized third party conformity assessment bodies to conduct blind correlation studies and lab audits."

Oy vey, what do people EXPECT? The CPSC can't help out on every niggling problem: "The Commission's limited resources preclude CPSC from directly conducting verification of the numerous CPSC recognized conformity assessment bodies. Additionally, the activities and requirements for accrediting conformity assessment bodies are outside the scope of this rulemaking."

Case closed?

Au contraire, Pierre! This CPSC will face down every challenge! They ain't no teething tiger any more, they are a Lion of Safety now, so they came up with the perfect rule to resolve this dilemma. After all, lest we forget, you CAN'T be too safe! Here's what they came up with:

"Proposed § 1107.24(a) would state that a manufacturer is responsible for verifying that its children's products, as tested by a third party conformity assessment body, comply with applicable children's product safety rules. For purposes of proposed § 1107.24, "verification" would mean testing that demonstrates that the test results from one third party conformity assessment body are consistent with the test results from another third party conformity assessment body for a particular children's product. Proposed § 1107.24(a) would require a manufacturer to send samples of a previously certified children's product or a children's product that previously has been tested periodically pursuant to proposed § 1107.21 to a third party conformity assessment body for verification.

. . . . Proposed § 1107.24(b) would require verification to occur on a reoccurring basis and be conducted at a frequent enough interval to provide a high degree of assurance that the children's product that had been certified previously continues to comply with the applicable children's product safety rules or that the periodic test for the children's product was performed correctly."

]Emphasis most enthusiastically added.]

This is GENIUS! Thank heavens we have the CPSC to protect us. Who else would have spotted this terrible and threatening gap in our consumer safety network? But having added this new layer of "protection", aren't other safety holes now visible? I call on the CPSC to bring out rules clarifying:
  • Certification of testing testers;
  • Certification of testing tester testing testers (you need those, too);
  • Certification of testing tester testing certifiers;
  • Rules for tolerable variances among testing labs for each certified test, record keeping on all test results and variances for at least 100 years, and plans of remediation for every conceivable variance for each possible test under all conceivable circumstances;
  • Rules for a new agency to check all the work of the CPSC and to reconsider and rewrite every rule they have ever written, plus record keeping and hearings and comment periods for this new agency;

I think the new agency to check the work of the CPSC should be called the Consumer Product Safety Commission Checking Commission for Safety Enhancement and Verification Processes (CPSCCCSEVP), you know, for simplicity. Gotta keep it simple and efficient. That's my motto!

[For more pleasure reading on this important topic, don't miss the 110-page Staff briefing or the equally riveting 29-page Slide Presentation for the April 15 Commission meeting on the same topic. Happy reading!]


jennifer said...

oh my.

Esther said...

Well there is a simple solution out there. Just make private testing labs illegal and have the CPSC do testing in-house. Only government can do things right, right?! (extreme sarcasm). It certainly seems like this is where things are headed. But can the CPSC live with the liability?

Jim Woldenberg said...

The testing of the tester testing is clearly the purview of the National Institutes for Standards and TESTING, or NIST, in Maryland. They may need a new department, which could be called the Department of Testing Testers, or they could change the name of the Agency to the NISTT.

The problem comes in because someone has to certify that the tester of the testing tester meets the standards . . . uh, oh . . . forgot about the standards. Someone has to make sure the standards are correct. Now we need a . . . my brain hurts!

Notechaser said...

Pretty sure they're saying to get a second opinion. That is, to use another equally certified agency to verify the first, not to create an infinite hierarchy of testing testers.

Not that that isn't an enjoyable thought.

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

Personally, I think testing once is more than enough. We ran our business with our own reasonable testing program for more than two decades and had one recall for 130 pieces only. [Knock wood!] We didn't send out our products to two different test labs to see if the results agreed. That is absurd at every level and seems like an expression of institutional OCD if you ask me.

For this agency to suggest that we double our testing costs, under any circumstances, suggests a level of insensitivity and deafness that I would not have thought possible. Hello, hello, has anyone heard any complaints about testing costs? I know the perfect solution - let's have everyone test everything twice!

Yeah, that's the ticket.

halojones-fan said...

Rick: Don't joke. CPSC is trying to turn itself into the FDA--and the FDA is notorious for suggesting that if one test is good enough, then two tests is even more good enough...