Product Safety Takes a Big Leap Forward

Just before Thanksgiving, a majority of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission gave consumers an early holiday present, approving a Final Rule that will establish a publicly accessible consumer product safety complaint database. For the first time since the commission was created, manufacturers will no longer control the flow of information about their products. By spring, consumers will be able to report their own complaints and research others via a web interface.

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The Right Way and the Wrong Way

On the eve of a vote on a Final Rule to establish the new database, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioners Anne Northup and Nancy Nord, have proposed an alternative to newly mandated consumer product safety database from that recommended by the staff. In a recent blog post entitled, “A Wrong Way and a Right Way – Which Will We Choose?” Commissioner Nord details the specific aspects of the database rule that prompted this Hail Mary pass: who can submit complaints and inaccurate information.

“Congress provided us with a list of those whose complaints should go up on the public database.  We have contorted the plain language Congress used into definitions that have no meaning.  For example, Congress told us to accept complaints from “consumers.”  The majority has determined that since everyone consumes something, we need to accept complaints from everyone—no need for any relationship to the product, harm or incident.  Think plaintiff lawyers trolling for clients or unscrupulous competitors wishing to harm a product’s reputation,” Nord writes.

CPSC Puts Information in Hands of Consumers

After taking comments from the public, and by that we mean, the remarks of a handful of advocates and consumers and the complaints of 33 trade organization reps and business owners, the U.S. Product Safety Commission is now preparing to vote on a Final Rule to establish a consumer complaint database.

The database represents a sea-change in the accessibility of consumer product information, wresting control from manufacturers, who held sway over the flow of public information for nearly three decades.

SRS President Sean Kane, who testified before the CPSC at a public hearing on the database, urged the agency to build a public database by fusing sufficient detail on the product and problem and public availability of the data in a timely fashion.

Could Crib Tents Become a Regulated Product?

On December 27, 2008, the strangulation death of Noah Thompson by a Tots In Mind crib tent became the first to be investigated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission involving this unregulated product. Eighteen months later, in July, the commission and the manufacturer finally announced a recall featuring a repair remedy for the attachment clips.

The Thompson case underscores two continuing weaknesses in the regulatory framework meant to ensure the safety of juvenile products: long gaps between the time when a product is deemed hazardous and a recall, and the difficulty in dealing with baby products that fall outside of the CPSC regulations and are not manufactured to any voluntary or mandatory standard.

The CPSC says that the Tots In Mind recall may only be the first action it takes to protect toddlers from the design deficiencies of crib tents.

CPSC Workshop on Building a Public Database Less Adversarial

The tone was less adversarial and more collegial as the U.S. Product Safety Commission held its first public workshop (see The End of the World as We Know it!) on the establishment of a Public Consumer Product Safety Incident Database this week.

The End of the World as We Know it

The very best consumer products complaints database would be one which allows manufacturers to thoroughly vet each complaint – no matter how many years it takes; one that would be accessible to the public, unless that member of the public is a plaintiff’s attorney or a reporter; or one that prohibits complaints that might tarnish an industry’s reputation. In other words, a database that preserves the status quo.

Pet Doors: A Little Known Gateway to Childhood Injury and Deaths

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - Matthew Ranfone was only two years old when he slipped out of his Orlando home, into an enclosed patio area and through a pool fence into the backyard pool. His parents found him minutes later floating face down. Matthew died 13 days later from the injuries sustained in the near drowning.

It's a scenario well-known to a handful of child injury specialists - especially those who study the morbidity data in warm weather states. In fact, since 1996 there are nearly 100 documented cases of children endangered after exiting the home via a pet door. Nearly three-quarters resulted in injury or death. Mathew's mother, Carol Ranfone, had no idea at the time that her son could easily escape through the small opening, but she is determined to warn other parents.

Crib Tents: Another Hazard from the World of Unregulated Child Products

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V6, I1

VINALHAVEN, ME - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has opened a probe in December 2008 into the strangulation death of a two-year-old who became entangled in the mesh netting of his crib tent.

Noah Thompson of Harvard, Mass., was strangled when his head got stuck between the mattress and mesh covering that was placed over his portable crib. His parents, Marc Thompson and Lisa Rosen, told state police that they had used the netting to prevent their son from climbing
out of the crib.

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