Thursday, February 24, 2011

CPSIA - ICPHSO Update on Strategic Plan Panel Discussion

Next up (after audio problems are "fixed") is the panel discussion on the Strategic Plan. The panel includes:
  • Ken Hinson, Executive Director (moderator)
  • Matt Howsare, Chief of Staff to Chairman Tenenbaum
  • Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel, CPSC
  • Jay Howell, Director, Hazard Identification and Reduction, CPSC
  • Richard O'Brien, Director, International Programs and Intergovernmental Affairs, CPSC
  • DeWayne Ray, Dep. Dir., Hazard Identification and Reductions, CPSC
  • Marc Schoem, Dep. Dir., Office of Compliance and Field Operations, CPSC
  • Neal Cohen, Small Business Ombudsman, CPSC
  • Scott Wolfson, Dir., Information and Public Affairs, CPSC

Update on rulemaking (CF): Final rules issued in 2010 - crib rule, database rule (launching on March 11), "Children's Product" rule and the civil penalty rule. Also, the mandatory recall rule, infant walkers and bath seat rules.

Draft rules: bike standard, two 15(j) rules on substantial product hazard list (drawstrings and hair dryers), component rule, 15 Month Rule and bassinets.

Rules coming up: cadmium rule (deferred for six months), toddler beds, lead paint and HD-XRF test methods, bed rails, bunk beds, swings, bicycle rules, testing and certification rules, 15(j) rules, 100 ppm lead standard, and notice of proposed rules on play yards and another "safe sleep" initiative category.

[One thinks that after they regulate bunk beds swings, bikes and so on that all the fun will be gone from childhood, bringing to mind an effective cure for cancer (killing the patient). Well, at least kids can still play with rocks . . . . OMG, rocks have lead in them!]

JH: They intend to double the number of rules in place in 1990. [Nice! More rules, more safety!] Rule-making activity is "abating" but have a growing compliance and enforcement workload. The burden is "shifting" to the compliance team. Working with all stakeholders to make sure they are compliant. [Safety is not the word used but instead "compliant". The notion is that compliance is tantamount to safety. Anyone want to discuss this topic?]

Why did the agency take such a "collaborative" approach to the Strategic Plan? MH - The "comprehensiveness" of the collaborative process was incredible. Went through all sorts of "painstaking" efforts to interview so many people in this room. [Perhaps Matt is referring to Raachel Weintraub - who else needed to be consulted, after all?] The Strategic Plan reflects the "consensus" view of the agency's strategy. The "collaborative" process was designed to guarantee "buy-in". The Chairman's focus under the Strategic Plan is the preventative portion. Spoke of Neal Cohen's area as a focal point. [There's an insight - we small business people are the problem! Thank heavens Neal Cohen can educate up.]

MH also points to "boots on the ground" in China as another feature of the CPSC's efforts to prevent disaster. He did not say what kind of boots those might be. Jackboots?

Tell us about small business ombudsing, Neal! NC: Start by listening. There's a lot of confusion, and there are ways to use the work done by the CPSC "to your favor". [Hmmm, I'd like to know more about that.] NC: I'm not a policy maker at the agency. [RW - that's the rub, ain't it?] NC: I am spreading the word about the problems within the agency. NC has his own website ( Putting out "plain English" documents to explain the law and the rules. Three tips on compliance: (a) know your product and your supply chain, (b) proactively educate your suppliers, and (c) don't "assume". [This is sound advice. It doesn't protect you from anything, however. Were you to follow Neal's advice, it would count for NOTHING if you get recalled. It should but it won't.]

All kidding aside, people have nice things to say about Neal. What he can achieve remains to be seen, however. I have yet to hear about him making problems go away. Most of the problems people are dealing with are nonsense, so if he could move heaven and earth, I think I would start to hear about him going to bat and getting something done for these beleaguered little companies.

International (RO'B): No sign of harmonization efforts in Mr. O'Brien's presentation. He is leading the effort to get other world regulators to join us in our safety mania.

Scott Wolfson's turn - "What about consumers and how do they fit into this?" SW: Pool Safely Initiative shows what we can do if we have money to get our messages out. [How have injury statistics changed, Scott? WS: Won't know for years. . . .] Concerned about "sustainability" ($$$). We're hitting the road to get the message out. Have built a network to get info out. Working on a new logo.

Scott did not update us on Aston Kutcher. Maybe during the Q&A . . . .

RW: This all sounds good as far as it goes. Of course, he does not discuss the impact of OTHER decisions his office makes, like communication of "hazards" like cords on baby monitors or recalls of Shrek glasses. It's all well and good that the CPSC has a couple billboards up about pool safety, but what about the mania on lead and their communication of those hazards?

Why does the CPSC need to train manufacturers? Why is it the agency's role? JH: There are various levels of sophistication out in the marketplace. To drive the prevention effort, need to make sure manufacturers understand the rules of the road. [RW - this is one of my original suggestions for the agency in my first speech on the CPSIA. Failures in outreach is one of the main causes of the storm behind the CPSIA.]

JH: We are focusing our efforts around priorities to increase impact and to avoid dilution.

Jay Howell usually sounds pretty sensible. It would be great if the agency sounded more reasonable more of the time. Perhaps Jay can be an agent in that process.

MS: Trying to reduce the time taken to negotiate recalls. [RW: Two-edged sword here, since the concept of due process is flying out the window with the justification that they are "saving lives".] MS: If you're right, you're right - just convince us. Also need to get information out to consumers quicker.

RW: This is agency policy talking, probably not Marc Schoem.

SW: We are going out on all platforms, like Twitter, news media, Facebook, blogs - multiple times. MSNBC is doing a monthly "round-up" of recalls.

There was time for only two questions from the audience. Filibuster! I got to ask one of them. Here's my question:

"I have testified five times at the CPSC, three times at your invitation. I have repeatedly told you that your policies and the CPSIA together are killing small businesses, killing products and killing markets. Last week, the bicycle industry testified that large bike manufacturers have reduced their product lines and small companies have left the market. Given this testimony, what do you think the agency's responsibility is to small business and how does the Strategic Plan relate to protecting the right of small business to sell children's products?"

KH: That's why we have had such a collaborative process in the Strategic Plan. We need to identify hose issues and figure out a solution. RW: But we're dying now. KH: We do what we do and violative products have to come off the market.

1 comment:

halojones-fan said...

"If you're right, you're right - just convince us."

Really? What do we do if the only thing we ever hear is "sorry, I'm not convinced"?

Perhaps the CPSC needs to provide examples of success stories, where the manufacturer was right, so that other companies can see what they did and understand why it worked.

But, y'know, that's part of that "outreach" thing that they're very interested in doing but don't want to actually do.