ICPHSO Conference - Thursday, August 4, 2011, Coca-Cola World HQs, Atlanta, Ga.

agosto 04, 2011

Good afternoon everyone. Joan [Matson of Master Lock], thank you very much for that kind introduction. I am proud to say that this is the fourth ICPHSO conference that I have participated in during my two years as Chairman.

 

From Orlando to Toronto, from Washington to Atlanta, wherever ICPHSO is being held, that is where the conversation on product safety is happening, and I want to be part of the conversation.

 

Ross, Marc, Carol, and Paul do a great job every year of putting these symposiums and conferences together. At CPSC, we view ICPHSO as one of the top forums for educating and engaging the stakeholder community in a conversation about the latest developments with the CPSIA and other Commission activities.

 

I hope all of you attended the morning session with our dynamic enforcement duo of Marc Schoem and Mary Toro—they symbolize the experience, insight and calm under pressure that is a hallmark of the staff at CPSC.

 

And in case you have not heard, Andy Kameros is now on board as our new Director of Compliance and Field Operations. Andy’s two decades of experience in investigations and enforcement make him a great addition to our team, and I encourage all of you to get to know him.

 

During my time with you today, I would like to discuss the remarkable achievements we have recorded so far this year, including our significant initiatives aimed at connecting with consumers.

 

I also want to address major developments that occurred just this week in Congress regarding passage of HR 2715, which amended certain parts of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act—and give you some insight as to what “CPSC Beyond the CPSIA” looks like.

 

Let’s start with the new rules that the Commission has approved and put into effect since the start of the year.

 

I believe that June 28 of this year will go down as a defining date in consumer product history. The new crib safety rules that CPSC put in place for manufacturers and retailers are considered to be the toughest in the world and went into effect on June 28 of this year.

 

These new rules are intended to honor Tyler Witte, Bobby Cirigliano, Liam Johns, and so many other children taken too soon, by preventing future tragedies.

 

As I have stated on many occasions, the cooperation we received from the membership of ASTM was vital to the Commission, as we voted out the first major upgrade to the federal crib standards in 30 years.

 

The way ASTM worked with CPSC on the crib standards is a model for future work on other juvenile product standards.

 

I want to recognize the manufacturers of full-size and non full-size cribs who are shipping compliant models to stores, child care centers, and hotels across the country. And I want to recognize the retailers, big and small, who cleared out their old inventory and are proudly selling the safest cribs in the world.

 

In fact, just this morning, I visited a small retailer of baby products here in Atlanta and the proprietor was so proud to have safer cribs for sale for her customers.

 

I told her that we are going to do our part at CPSC to help her business thrive by encouraging parents to go out and buy a new crib for their new baby.

 

Since a safe crib is the safest place for a baby to sleep, I often say that a new crib should be the largest investment that new parents save up for.

 

The industry has taken center stage in delivering on CPSC’s promise to reduce deaths and injuries from defective cribs. I believe industry should be commended for their effort.

 

The new crib rules represent a major deliverable in our implementation of the CPSIA. CPSC has had other notable achievements in implementing the CPSIA this year that I would like to share with all of you. These include:

 

The approval of mandatory standards aimed at keeping drawstrings out of children’s outerwear and keeping immersion protection devices on hair dryers. Both of these rules were established using our new authority under 15(j) of the law.

 

The approval of a final safety standard for toddler beds and a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at creating a federal safety standard for bed rails. Both of these rules contribute to our effort to meet the all-important requirements of section 104 of the CPSIA.

 

In mid-July, we approved procedures that will require independent safety testing to the federal toy safety standard, commonly known as ASTM F963. During the toy scare of 2007 and 2008, parents repeatedly called for more rigorous testing and now their calls are being answered.

 

And just last week, we approved procedures that will require independent safety testing to ensure that companies meet strict federal limits on the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child care articles. Six phthalates are banned in toys and child care products, if they exceed the federal limit of 0.1 percent.

 

We really made a strong push this summer to add another layer of safeguards to the marketplace, and to give businesses the predictability that they need.

 

I believe it is important to point out that the Commission harmonized the timing of when the major testing and certification requirements kick in for lead content, phthalates, and the federal toy safety standard.

 

As Mary Toro stated earlier this morning, independent, third-party testing to these three key child safety rules will be required at the start of the new year.

 

Many small crafters and micro businesses expressed their appreciation to CPSC for listening to their concerns and providing relief from testing and certification requirement until after the holiday season.

 

I want to be very clear that the underlying rules for lead content, phthalates and F963 have been in place for two years and must be followed. And I expect affected makers and importers of children’s products to use the extra time afforded to them by the Commission to select an approved laboratory to test their products in 2012.

 

If we all work together, we can make the law work as intended.

 

One other important determination was approved by the Commission in July. We found that there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that manufacturers of children’s products sold in the U.S. could not meet a total lead content limit of 100 parts per million.

 

How do you like that double negative?

 

The double negative drove the media crazy, but that’s the way the law was written.

 

The impact of our determination is that 10 days from now, the total lead content limit in this country will drop to one of the lowest levels in the world. This will allow consumers to rest assured that lead should be virtually nonexistent in toys and children’s products made on or after August 14.

 

This is another point in time when I believe we should step back and commend makers of certain toys, zippers, buttons, and nursery products—commend them for heeding our call to get the lead out, and delivering nearly lead free products to the market prior to this deadline.

 

From port inspections to retail surveillance, our screening data show that the majority of children’s products comply with the new lead standards—this is a big win for kids.

 

With all of the positive change that has occurred, there was one serious problem that all wanted to avoid on August 14. The way the law was originally written, the 100 parts per million total content limit would have been applied prospectively and retroactively.

 

My fellow Commissioners and I did not believe this was fair—it would not have been fair to apply this limit retroactively, especially after so many companies went to such lengths to comply with the 300 parts per million limit.

 

Well, earlier this week, the Congress responded. On Monday, Congress passed HR 2715, a bipartisan bill that clarifies the drop down to 100 parts per million applies only to children’s products made after August 14.

 

I applaud the Congress for coming together in a spirit of bipartisanship and responding to the call of all five CPSC Commissioners to not make the lower lead limit retroactive for retailers and resellers.

 

When I first took over the reins of CPSC in July 2009, I said that I would be a firm, but fair regulator. In keeping with this approach, I called for greater flexibility in implementing the CPSIA.

 

My guiding principle has been that any changes to the law not slow down or reverse the progress we have made to protect the health and safety of children.

 

H.R. 2715 confirms that vision.

 

By a 421-2 vote in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate, Congress provided additional flexibility in the areas the Commission requested, while reaffirming the key landmark provisions of the CPSIA.

 

Specifically, Congress again reiterated that new children’s products should have one of the lowest lead levels in the world, that almost all toys and children’s products should be subject to independent third-party testing, and that the publicly searchable database of consumer product safety incidents should continue to operate as a beacon of sunshine for consumers.

 

H.R. 2715 also expanded our authorities to gather information needed to investigate potential offenders.

 

I know there has been a lot of controversy over CPSIA over the past few years.

 

With Monday’s vote, I am pleased to see that Congress has almost unanimously reaffirmed core provisions of the CPSIA and the Commission’s work during my tenure.

 

I can assure you that the staff at CPSC is already hard at work reviewing the language in the bill and will be providing more insight concerning the bill to the regulated community in the upcoming weeks and months.

 

So, to recap, HR 2715 passed both chambers on August 1 and now awaits the President’s signature.

 

Now, I know that the focus for many has already shifted to what these reform measures mean to the business community. But, I have not lost sight of the great strides we have made this year in doing the hard work—the hard work of putting the law into effect and reinforcing the nation’s product safety net.

 

Yes, it can appear at times that the debates at CPSC run hotter than an August day in Atlanta. But, the fact is we are getting things done, and the majority of the votes we cast are unanimous.

 

While the spotlight is often on the Commissioners, much of the credit for our progress goes to the tireless work of the CPSC staff.

 

I am very fortunate to have 550 outstanding and selfless public servants by my side as we work to secure the trust and ensure the safety of American consumers.

 

Among the unsung heroes at CPSC, are our field investigators. A group of them from around the country just wrapped up a training session here in Atlanta.

 

Our field investigators carry a heavy work load and heavy responsibility. Their assignments can take them hundreds of miles away and require them to interview traumatized families and put the puzzle pieces together at scattered incident scenes.

 

In spite of these challenges, our field investigators get results. So far this year, they have conducted nearly 500 fire-related investigations, with 98 percent of them completed in less than 45 days.

 

More than 950 non-fire-related investigations have been carried out this year, 95 percent of which were completed in less than 45 days. And across the country, our field staff has conducted more than 800 inspections of businesses so far this year.

 

We take our investigation and enforcement authorities very seriously.

 

The gathering and processing of information is at the heart of what makes CPSC an effective regulator.

 

If we contact your company or your client, be responsive; and when in doubt, report.

 

So long as I am Chairman, CPSC will use its enhanced authorities to deal with firms that wait until numerous consumers have been injured from a known safety hazard, before reporting.

 

It is unacceptable to not report to CPSC in a timely manner and it is not reflective of the way the majority of the regulated community conducts its business.

 

We can work cooperatively and act in the best interest of the consumer—I know we can, because I know many of you are already doing so.

 

The reporting of information to CPSC connects us to the business community and to consumers. As most of you here today are aware, we launched a major initiative in March aimed at increasing our connection with consumers.

 

Of course, I am referring to the SaferProducts.gov database.

 

Our publicly searchable database of consumer incident reports is the agency’s most significant open government program.

 

One of the reasons why I am a proponent of transparency is the faith I have in the consumer.

 

I believe that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer. And I believe that having open access to incident information that could only be obtained in the past through FOIA, can help consumers make more informed decisions.

 

For five months, the system has been working well.

 

Consumers are the primary submitters of incidents reports and consumers are providing model or serial number information more than 80 percent of the time.

 

HR 2715 seeks to spur even further improvement to that already high reporting ratio, and requires CPSC staff to contact those consumers who do not provide us with model or serial number information in their report.

 

We will certainly comply with this provision, and look forward to providing further enhanced information to both manufacturers and consumers in the near future.

 

There are more than 1,600 reports that are available right now for viewing on the database. There have been hundreds of thousands of visitors and page views, and again, the system is working as intended.

 

Some of the reports on the database involve serious injuries to children and adults, while others shine a light on the potential for injury posed by a product.

 

If any of you work for or represent a manufacturer of consumer products, I have a request: log on the SaferProducts.gov this afternoon, visit the Business Portal, and register your company. This way we can quickly notify you if an incident report names your firm.

 

Named manufacturers deserve the full 10 working days of review afforded to them under the law. And the best way we can provide you with a full 10 day clock to work from is to notify you electronically.

 

I want to share with all of you that the number of material inaccuracy claims as a percentage of the overall number of reports processed remains low.

 

And the majority of material inaccuracy claims continue to be related to the consumer naming the wrong manufacturer.

 

We can handle those mistakes and correct them quickly.

 

We want to get the database right, and we are getting it right.

 

The vision I have for SaferProducts.gov is that it will be a site that generates more reporting to the agency. And that as a result of our vital information technology modernization initiative, we are able to manage these reports with greater efficiency.

 

It all comes back to the flow of information, and managing it in ways that make CPSC faster to connect the dots and tackle emerging hazards.

 

From cribs to clothing, from toy safety to SaferProducts.gov, we have had a great year so far in advancing product safety in the U.S. and worldwide.

 

But, what lies ahead for CPSC?

 

What lies ahead is a consumer protection agenda that reaches beyond the CPSIA.

 

Now, I do not want to give short shrift to the fact that we still need to complete the component part testing and continuous testing and certification rulemakings.

 

And in honor of Danny Keysar, we will protect the next generation of babies and toddlers by turning all of the major juvenile product standards into mandatory ones. I’m talking about play yards, swings, bassinets, booster chairs, and more.

 

Completing all of the section 104 rules will take years, but we are embracing this mandate as one that will unquestionably result in lives saved and injuries prevented.

 

Now, I would turn to the work CPSC is doing beyond the CPISA. I know, and the staff knows, that statements from certain people about the agency only working on tasks related to the CPSIA are false.

 

Saying the CPSIA has kept us from other important work does not show the proper respect—respect for the compliance officers, who secure hundred of recalls a year; respect for the engineers and health scientists, who are confronting acute and chronic hazards; and respect for the port inspectors, who keep finding violative products within mountains of cargo containers.

 

Many of our talented employees are working on safety initiatives that go beyond the CPSIA, yet aim to further the vision of our new Strategic Plan—a plan focused on making CPSC more proactive, preventative, and the global leader in product safety.

 

The safety agenda I would like share with all of you will guide my agency in the months and years ahead. And it is an agenda that advances consumer protection.

 

High on the agenda are a series of projects that once completed, have the potential to save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of injuries each year. I’m referring to:

 

Portable gas generators, which were involved in 676 carbon monoxide related deaths between 1999 and 2010. Our mechanical engineers, along with engineers at the University of Alabama, are doggedly trying to develop a cut-off switch that will shut down a generator if oxygen levels are depleted in a contained space. We have required a danger label that says, “Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes,” but we need to explore technical solutions that can save lives.

 

Recreational off-road vehicles or ROVs are a hot product in the off-roading community, but like ATVs, they come with risks—risks compounded by the fact that vehicles allow for passengers. There have been more than 115 deaths over the past eight years. We started rulemaking in December 2009, seeking to address occupant protections and steering performance, and we are on the trail moving toward a proposed rule.

 

ATVs remain a serious concern to me and the agency. With more than 800 deaths per year, ATVs are the second most deadly product that we oversee. We have been doing grassroots education for years, and we have proposed rulemaking aimed at establishing greater protections for young riders. In states like California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, ATV deaths are a serious public safety problem. I want to do all we can at CPSC to be part of the solution.

 

Upholstered furniture is involved in tens of thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths each year. And we know that 90 percent of the addressable deaths are related to smoldering fires, such as those caused by cigarettes. Our staff has proposed a rule that would limit the fire spread in upholstered furniture without the need for manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals. After 16 years of trying, I really want a final rule approved while I am Chairman as I believe it could go down as one of the top lifesaving rules in our history.

 

A common attribute that runs through all of the product hazards I just discussed, is that we have team leaders and technical staff who are experts in their field.

 

I’m proud of the work they are doing and I know they want to bring closure to their projects and start preventing rollovers, crashes, CO poisonings, and fires.

 

Based on direction from me and the other Commissioners, staff is also working to make window coverings safer.

 

I trust many of you have heard this statistic before: one child dies almost every month in a window cord strangulation incident.

 

After hundreds of preventable deaths over the past two decades, the time is now to finally, once and for all, eliminate the strangulation hazard with exposed window blind cords.

 

Notice how I did not say, “reduce the hazard.” I said, “eliminate the hazard.”

 

The Window Covering Manufacturers Association did a great thing last fall by publicly announcing—with some encouragement from me—that they would take a comprehensive approach to updating their standards. And that they would have a package of improved voluntary standards out for ballot this October, which is Window Covering Safety Month.

 

Well, we are three months away and I am standing before you feeling less than confident that this process is headed in the right direction.

 

The WCMA needs to get the train back on the tracks, heed my call and calls from Members of Congress to eliminate the hazard, and keep CPSC staff and the consumer advocates meaningfully involved in the process.

 

The know-how is there, the technological innovation is there, what we need in the will of the window covering industry to put safety first.

 

In closing, I hope you can see that we are making great progress at CPSC in establishing a system of safety for American consumers.

 

From the promising plan in place with the Chinese that encourages the use of best manufacturing practices to our inspectors using advanced tools and technologies to give us a solid line of defense at the ports to the creation of lifesaving standards, we are being more proactive and less reactive.

 

As we continue our pursuit at CPSC to be the global leader in product safety, I hope you will join us and share your expertise and insights, so that the wins we achieve for consumers can be celebrated by all.

 

To Joan and the entire ICPHSO board, I thank you once again for the invitation to speak today, and I hope everyone enjoys the remainder of the conference.