The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Conmission today announced the settlement of several mgoing lawsuits and investigations involving Honeywell, Inc., one of the nation's largest manufacturing firms. Honeywell has agreed to pay $800,000, the highest civil penalty in Commission history, to resolve allegations that it failed to report defects and hazards involving certain gas controls. The Commission is aware of 22 deaths and 77 serious injuries from explosions and fires associated with the controls.
As a part of the settlement agreement Honeywell will conduct an extensive inspection, repair, and warning program aimed at hundreds of thousands of potentially hazardous gas controls used in Liquefied Petroleum (LP) furnaces, space heaters, and water heaters. Consumers are urged not to attempt to fix their own controls, but should contact their LP suppliers, or Honeywell.
With assistance of LP gas dealers nationwide, Honeywell will be responsible for inspecting consumers' homes to replace certain gas controls known as the V8280 family of gas controls and model V5130 water heater controls. At least 400,000 V8280 controls and 900,000 V5130 controls were manufactured for use with LP gas since 1958. LP dealers will receive a $50.00 bounty for locating certain of the hazardous controls in consumers' homes and will earn additional sums for replacing the products involved. Honeywell will also notify the public of the potential hazards through extensive national newspaper and magazine advertising. Details of the inspection and repair programs are as follows:
The V8280 family of combination gas controls was manufactured between 1961 and 1974 for use in furnaces, boilers, and space heaters. The controls came in over thirty models in three basic sizes, 80,000 British Thermal Units per hour (BTUH), 115,000 BTUH, and 224,000 to 262,000 BTUH. These controls were the subject of an administrative lawsuit alleging that they contained defects which allowed raw LP gas to flow into a furnace and the surrounding areas in the absence of a pilot light.
The staff alleged that about 18 explosions and fires, resulting in one death and approximately 20 severe injuries, occurred after the control knob had been stuck down. Honeywell has denied that the V8280 controls are defective. Nevertheless, it has agreed to replace all V8280 family controls where the knob has been stuck down. Honeywell will also replace certain 80,000 and 115,000 BTUH models manufactured from 1961 to 1963 in which the control knobs are particularly susceptible to becoming stuck down, Replacement will be made at no charge to consumers.
In addition, LP dealers will place a warning label on every furnace having a V8280 family control, notifying consumers and others against potentially hazardous behavior.
The model numbers affected are:
|80,000 BTUH||115,000 BTUH||224,000 to 262,000 BTUH
The Honeywell model V5130 water heater control was also the subject of an Administrative Complaint. The staff alleged that, because of a design defect in the control knob, when used with LP gas water heaters, this knob presents a substantial risk of injury to the public from fires and explosions. The Commission is aware of approximately 66 incidents involving this control, including 16 deaths and approximately 36 incidents of personal injury to consumers. Honeywell has denied that the V5130 controls are defective.
Honeywell has agreed to replace the knobs on each of these controls through the nationwide network of 19 gas suppliers. Replacement will be done at no cost to consumers. LP dealers will also place a warning label on all water heaters equipped with a V5130 control, & will be paid for their efforts.
As part of the settlement, Honeywell has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $800,000 to resolve Commission allegations that it knowingly failed to report the defects in V8280 controls to the Commission, and also failed to disclose defects in a group of controls known as the V8139 family, as required by Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act. (The V8139 family was the subject of a recall in 1980.)
Under agency rules, the civil penalty settlement is provisionally accepted, and will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Upon final acceptance of the civil penalty settlement, the Commission will also close its investigation of a possible reporting violation involving the Honeywell V5130 water heater gas control. The Commission plans to close this investigation because it believes that the civil penalty amount paid by Honeywell to resolve the V8280 and V8139 gas control valve reporting matters is sufficient to deter Honeywell from future reporting violations, and will deter other firms from violating the Section 15(b) reporting provision. Honeywell has agreed to a far-reaching corrective action program for the V5130 controls. Upon consideration of these factors, the Commission has concluded that it will not devote additional resources to further investigate possible V5130 reporting violations.
Again, consumers should not attempt to fix their own controls but should contact their L9 suppliers. Or they may call Honeywell toll free at 800-328-8194. (In Minnesota call l-800-722-0033).
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