CPSC Safety Academy Addresses Toy Standard; CPSC Public Disclosure Rule

September 24, 2012 | The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) first-ever “Safety Academy” was held on Thursday, September 20th, bringing together representatives from a broad cross-section of the consumer product industries overseen by the Commission. The outreach effort was launched to educate these diverse stakeholders on various agency activities and to promote safety and best practices throughout the supply chain.

In her opening remarks, CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum reiterated several of the Commission’s key messages, including a reference that product safety has to be addressed at the source and continued from design, through manufacturing and into the supply chain. 

Alongside Commissioners Nancy Nord, Anne Northup and Robert Adler, the chairman urged audience participation during the discussions and information updates on topics such as ‘compliance basics’; mandatory testing, component parts testing, and certificates of conformity; navigating the CPSC import process; and international topics from representatives of safety agencies in Brazil, China and Canada.

Toy Industry Association (TIA) staff Al Kaufman, senior vice president of technical affairs, and Joan Lawrence, vice president of standards and government affairs – who also serves as chair of the ASTM F963 toy standard subcommittee – spoke on a toy safety panel moderated by Neal Cohen, CPSC small business ombudsman.  The discussion focused not only on the process for writing and editing the standard, but also on how it is used in developing a testing plan for toys.  Joining the TIA staff as panelists were: Nancy Cowles from Kids in Danger; Jonathan Midgett, a child psychologist at the CPSC; and Pratik Ichhaporia from Intertek Consumer Goods. 

Neal Cohen and the CPSC’s office of education, global outreach and small business ombudsman, were identified as the agency’s key point of contact for businesses looking for guidance on compliance with applicable federal consumer product safety laws.

During a subsequent panel reviewing Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), which regulates the CPSC’s ability to disclose information to the public, the Commission’s supervisory general counsel announced a “minor change” that would alter how the CPSC responds to media inquiries regarding pending product safety investigations (whether investigations are initiated by the CPSC or voluntarily by a company).  Under current policy, the Commission will always decline to comment on whether it is investigating a particular company or product by name.  The new interpretation of the regulations would provide CPSC staff with the ability to respond to media inquiries about an ongoing investigation.  Critics say that this practice could unnecessarily tarnish a company’s reputation – particularly if the media reports on an investigation that does not result in a corrective action – and that it could dissuade companies from voluntarily sharing information with the CPSC.

A number of industry groups have questioned the change; additional review is now underway.  TIA will keep members apprised of developments on this topic.