Acuity Brands Inc. to Pay $700,000 Penalty for Failing to Report Hazardous Lights

March 9, 2006
Release Number: 06110

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Acuity Brands Inc., of Atlanta, Ga., has agreed to pay a $700,000 civil penalty. The penalty, which has been provisionally accepted by the Commission, settles allegations that the company failed to report to CPSC in a timely manner about defects and hazards in more than 1.4 million of its Lithonia Lighting products.

CPSC conducted four investigations into the timeliness of Acuity's reporting. In the first matter, Acuity manufactured and sold 1.2 million ELM and ELM2 emergency lights. The lights were installed near exit doors in buildings such as schools, offices, and shopping centers, to aid in evacuation in an emergency. The lights had an electrical component that could overheat and pose a fire hazard when connected to 277-volt electrical systems.

CPSC alleged that from January 1996 through September 2000, Acuity received reports of 109 emergency light failures at 33 sites, including lights that smoked, melted, ruptured, and caught on fire. Acuity learned of one person who suffered a burned finger. Before reporting the hazard and incidents to CPSC in October 2000, Acuity unilaterally made a change to these lights that reduced the fire hazard, and Acuity replaced many of the lights. In April 2001, CPSC and Acuity announced a recall.

In the second matter, Acuity manufactured and sold 52,600 indoor high intensity discharge (HID) lights. The HID lights had acrylic lenses and reflectors, and were used in a variety of locations including retail spaces, warehouses, and gymnasiums. The lights had an electrical component that could leak fluid. The fluid could degrade the lights' acrylic lenses and reflectors, causing these components or pieces of them, to crack and fall from high ceilings and injure people.

CPSC alleged that from May 2003 through January 2004, Acuity received reports of 197 HID light failures at 18 sites, including 56 incidents in which lenses, reflectors, or pieces fell. Acuity learned of one person who suffered a forehead laceration and eye injury. Before reporting to CPSC in February 2004, Acuity unilaterally stopped using the defective component and replaced many of the lights. CPSC and Acuity announced the recall of these HID lights in March 2004.

The third matter involved 40,600 HID lights with the same uses and defects as described above, but which were manufactured by Acuity during an earlier period of time. CPSC alleged that from September 2003 through June 2004, Acuity received reports of 91 of these additional HID lights or similar lights failing, including 60 incidents of lenses or reflectors that cracked but did not fall and 31 incidents of lenses or reflectors that cracked and fell. Before reporting to CPSC in October 2004, Acuity unilaterally replaced many of these lights and stopped using the defective component. CPSC and Acuity announced an expansion of the recall described above in March 2005.

In the final matter, Acuity manufactured and sold 120,000 HID lights with defective cords. The cords dripped a fluid that degraded the acrylic lenses and reflectors, causing them, or pieces of them, to crack and fall from high ceilings risking injury to people below.

CPSC alleged that from June 2002 through September 2004, Acuity learned of 15 sites at which 510 lights were reported as failing, more than 286 cracking reflectors, 19 falling reflectors, and at least 202 cords that dripped fluid but had not yet caused reflectors to crack. During this period, Acuity unilaterally arranged to replace over 2,000 of these lights. Acuity reported to CPSC in September 2004 and recalled these lights in March 2005.

Federal law requires manufacturers, retailers, and distributors to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial risk of injury to the public, presents an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or violates a federal safety standard.

In agreeing to settle this matter, Acuity does not admit CPSC's allegations and denies that it violated any law.