ICPHSO Keynote Address, Brussels, Belgium

Chairman Tenenbaum gave this speech at ICPHSO in Brussels.
octubre 16, 2012

 

Good morning everyone.

 

Bruce, thank you for that introduction. The product safety community can always count on you to do a great job in putting together ICPHSO conferences around the world.

 

Pär, it is a pleasure being on this panel with you. A number of officials from your company's offices in Sweden and the United States met with me recently.

 

I was pleased to hear about the innovative steps that IKEA is taking to advance child safety in window coverings, furniture, and televisions. I look forward to hearing your remarks this morning.

 

I am proud to say that this is my seventh ICPHSO conference.

 

I have supported ICPHSO throughout my tenure as Chairman because I believe this is a great forum for CPSC - a great forum for us to engage in a forward-looking conversation with our stakeholders from around the world.

 

And with this being International Product Safety Week, I am especially pleased to be in Brussels with all of you.

 

My friend and fellow regulator Commissioner Dalli did an excellent job in the previous session of talking about the breadth of cooperation that exists - and continues to get stronger - among regulators worldwide.

 

Commissioner Dalli and I had the good fortune of working together this past summer at CPSC's headquarters. We were joined by Vice Minister Sun from AQSIQ for our third biennial consumer product safety trilateral summit.

 

As we focus on "state of the art international collaboration," I see the trilateral relationship among CPSC, the EU and AQSIQ as a symbol of progress, especially in the area of product tracking and traceability.

 

I see the maturing bilateral relationship between CPSC and AQSIQ as a symbol of progress, especially in the area of building safety into the manufacturing process.

 

And, I see the strong relationship CPSC has with Health Canada as a model for regional collaboration.

 

State of the art collaboration is like preparing and serving a fine meal. It requires a number of key ingredients that must be used at just the right time, in just the right amount.

 

A belief in open government and a willingness to share information whenever possible are key ingredients - as is having a vision beyond one's own borders.

 

It is also important to have the right guests at the table.

 

At CPSC, we are taking a multi-course approach to achieve state of the art collaboration. In our trilateral relationship with the European Commission and AQSIQ, we are collectively working toward seamless surveillance of consumer products. Cooperation on tracking and traceability of violative and dangerous products found in one jurisdiction could help stave off incidents or injuries in another jurisdiction.

 

In China, my approach of taking safety to the source has led to a greater level of understanding with our government counterparts and with manufacturers. A greater level of understanding of the importance of building products that comply with our voluntary and mandatory safety standards and using best practices in manufacturing.

 

We have an open line of communication with our colleagues in AQSIQ, and through our foreign office in Beijing, we have reached heights we could never reached before. CPSC employees have conducted dozens of trainings sessions throughout China for manufacturers of toys, textiles, fireworks, and other heavily exported products.

 

Now, collaboration is a two-way street, so back in the United States, we have stressed to importers and retailers the importance of providing brokers and manufacturers with proper design specifications.

 

Another model of collaboration can be seen in the nearly weekly announcements of recalls that are jointly developed by CPSC and Health Canada staff. I know there are some members of the Health Canada team here today and we truly value the commitment you have to product safety.

 

Earlier this year, CPSC coordinated with Health Canada, Profeco and Cofepris - the product safety agencies for Mexico - on our first trilateral safety campaign. We focused on poison prevention in March and next month we are working toward our second campaign related to toy safety.

 

We expect to announce trilateral recalls with Canada and Mexico in the coming months.

 

This week, a great deal will be said about alignment of product safety requirements. I believe that alignment is a collaborative goal that regulators across a number of jurisdictions, as well as voluntary standards developers, should continue to pursue.

 

Regulators from Europe, Canada, and Australia have been involved with CPSC in a Pilot Alignment Initiative dealing with window coverings, infant slings, and chair-to- booster seats for children.

 

One thing we have learned from this exercise is that early consultation will leave maximum flexibility for consensus building.

 

This is exactly the approach that the International Consumer Product Safety Caucus - the ICPSC - is taking with its Forecasting Sessions. These sessions involve regulators discussing over-the-horizon safety issues that have not yet been adequately addressed.

 

On Friday, the OECD Working Party on Consumer Product Safety will launch the Global Recalls Portal - a breakthrough event in international product safety collaboration.

 

For the first time ever, consumers, regulators, and industry will be able to see in one place what product recalls have been announced by governments around the world.

 

And drawing on this experience, the Working Party has before it an ambitious proposal for a Global Injury Data Portal - a project that would include capacity building for jurisdictions who have no injury data collection ability.

 

This is very exciting as injury data is the life blood of the analytical work that goes into injury prevention.

 

One final program that we are very excited about at CPSC, as another model for state of the art collaboration, is our foreign exchange program.

 

This year, Keilee Meraw, an epidemiologist from Health Canada and Lauren Johnston, the Director of Education and Governance for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission joined us as International Fellows, working side by side with staff in our offices for 90 days.

 

We learned so much from each of them and I trust that they brought a renewed energy and level of expertise back to their agencies, as a result of working with our great staff.

 

This program will be expanded in future years and we hope to be able to send CPSC staff overseas to work with fellow regulators.

 

I hope you can see how committed we are at CPSC to sharing our experiences, supporting the international safety community, and working to strengthen consumer protection on a global scale. There are many consumers who have no voice, who are counting on us to work on their behalf.

 

During my remaining time with you this morning, I would like to focus on three additional areas:

 

  • CPSC's port surveillance program,
  • the concept of "Safety by Design,"
  • and, an update on CPSC's key rulemaking activities.

 

Let's start with our import surveillance program.

 

There is an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between CPSC and our Department of Homeland Security. The partnership we have with the port security agency in the United States - called Customs and Border Protection - is a model for how our federal government can cohesively work toward a common good.

 

Consumers in the United States are counting on CPSC. They are depending on us to be a cop on the beat at the water's edge.

 

They may not understand which government agency at which port is seizing which products today; yet, consumers expect us to get the job done.

 

And we are.

 

I am so proud of the CPSC investigators who are collocated with Homeland Security inspectors at key ports across the United States.

 

And, I am proud that CPSC was one of the first U.S. agencies to sign an agreement to gain access to a Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center. This is a special command center that our Homeland Security agency operates to track incoming shipments of goods from overseas ports.

 

By working arm-in-arm on the frontlines, we have stopped violative products such as toys, teddy bears, hair dryers, Christmas lights, extension cords, jewelry, and fireworks from ever being sold in U.S. stores.

 

Our collective efforts have prevented children and consumers from being exposed to products with small parts, missing shock-protection devices, undersized wiring, counterfeit UL labels, high levels of cadmium, and too much flash powder.

 

Some of you may remember that CPSC faced public concern in 2007 and 2008 - this was before I was Chairman - for allowing lead tainted toys, defective magnetic toys, and deadly cribs from China into the U.S.

 

Well, I am happy to say that CPSC is now heading in the right direction when it comes to import safety.

 

The year of the recall did not cause a sustained decline in the importation of Chinese made consumer products. This is why our import safety efforts are so important.

 

There is a chart that I have taken with me - from Washington to Beijing to Shanghai - and it shows a slight a jump imported products under CPSC's jurisdiction from China since 2009.

 

It goes from $245 billion of goods in 2009 to $301 billion in Chinese imports in 2010 to $320 billion in 2011.

 

To me, these numbers mean that we must stay vigilant at the ports. And we are.

 

By being proactive at the ports, CPSC and CBP staff stopped 6.5 million units of about 1,700 different children's products in 2010 and 2011.

 

In the first half of our 2012 fiscal year, we screened more than 6,600 products at ports of entry and prevented more than one million units of violative or dangerous products from reaching consumers.

 

We are now issuing press releases every quarter detailing our stoppages of consumer products that violate our mandatory standards.

 

We are providing the name of the foreign manufacturer, the importer, the violation, the quantity of units, and country of origin.

 

This is another sign of belief in open government and using information to foster collaboration. Our international staff is sharing this information with our foreign partners, so that they can help stop the problem at the source.

 

These releases are posted on CPSC.gov, if you are interesting in reviewing them.

 

We are not releasing this information to embarrass industry. I want industry to stay strong and I believe that having open access to information about seizures can help them make smart business decisions to stay strong.

 

For consumers and our stakeholder community at large, we are using this information to meet our strategic goal of creating more awareness and confidence in CPSC's surveillance and enforcement program at the ports.

 

We are working hard at CPSC to be proactive, while operating in an environment of limited resources.

 

Having information about incoming shipments allows us to be smarter with our inspection regime and achieve a higher detection rate of violative products.

 

In recent years, our outstanding staff at the ports has achieved a violation rate above 50 percent of samples that we have tested.

 

We are striving to stay above 50 percent and we are creating a new agency goal to increase the effectiveness of our targeting efforts.

 

Another vital part of our surveillance program is the implementation of a pilot risk assessment methodology - known as "the RAM." The RAM pilot is aimed at early detection and targeting of high risk products and repeat offenders.

 

Preliminary results indicate that 90 percent - yes, 90 percent - of shipments are reviewed and released on the same day.

 

We are asking our legislature to provide CPSC with greater funding support in order to expand the RAM program. I'm excited about its potential and believe it will make CPSC even more effective at managing risk and managing our limited resources.

 

Next, I would like to discuss a concept that I have been talking about all year long. I started talking about "Safety By Design" during my travels to Hong Kong in January, and I believe this conference is an ideal forum to continue the conversation.

 

I would like to use toy design as an example of the importance of ensuring that product specifications account for safety.

 

In 2008, two researchers from western Canada published a paper analyzing about 600 toy recalls announced in the United States over a 20-year period.

 

The researchers found that "the number of defects attributable to design issues was much higher than those attributable to manufacturing problems."

 

In fact, 71 percent of the toy recalls that they analyzed were related to a design problem.

 

The researchers stated that "a design problem is reflected in sharp edges of a toy, which pose a laceration hazard. Another common design problem is small detachable parts, such as balls and beads, which pose a swallowing and choking hazard. Other examples of design flaws include open tubes and spaces, which can entrap children's body parts, long strings that pose a strangulation hazard, and sewn buttons and glued eyes on stuffed toys (as opposed to button-less clothing for toys and embroidered eyes)."

 

The researchers added: "A design problem would result in an unsafe toy irrespective of where it was manufactured. On the other hand, a manufacturing defect arises because of manufacturer errors or negligence…If a toy's design is good, it does not necessarily mean that the toys produced will be good. By contrast, if the design is poor, the toys manufactured will definitely be faulty."

 

With a high percentage of your major components and finished products being imported from China, the final design of your products has to be right, every time.

 

Before manufacturing and assembly starts, it is vital that your company design out potential health and safety risks in each and every model.

 

Here are some examples of what I mean:

 

  • Makers of electronic products that use coin cell batteries must ensure that children cannot access those batteries.
  • Coin cell batteries re-emerged last year as a public health issue in the United States, due to a rise in incidents - even fatal incidents - of children swallowing these toxic batteries.

 

I am truly encouraged by the international and industry cooperation aimed at addressing this serious hazard. The World Health Organization sponsored a global health and safety conference two weeks ago in New Zealand, at which CPSC staff and staff from several other jurisdictions organized a symposium. I believe some of you were here today were at the conference and know how successful it was at raising awareness of this problem.

 

Innovative solutions were discussed to improve battery design and to reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of burn injuries to children from ingestion.

 

Another important design factor for manufacturers concerns the metals and chemicals used in plastics, surface coatings, and substrates.

 

"Safety by Design" means ensuring that specs are very clear about not including lead, cadmium, antimony, chromium, and other toxic metals. There are strict limits on these metals in children's toys and metal jewelry.

 

"Safety by Design" means that the design specifications comply with the requisite performance standard, and that no one in the supply chain strays from those specifications.

 

A breakdown in design or the supply chain or the manufacturing plan can have serious consequences - it can be lead to fires, electrical shock, exposure to a toxic metal, or other hazards.

 

I believe that "Safety by Design," can be a winning approach for industry.

 

I believe that it will help industry reach a superior level of quality, conformance, and customer satisfaction - characteristics that consumers around the world want to see in the goods that they purchase.

 

If manufacturers can aim for the highest level of safety in their design specifications, while CPSC, the EC, and regulators in Asia keep working to promote best manufacturing practices, I believe that we can achieve something great.

 

The final topic that I would like to talk to you about is CPSC's safety agenda for our 2013 fiscal year, which began on October 1.

 

Many of the talented employees at CPSC - and there are truly many - are working on safety initiatives aimed at making our agency even more proactive in 2013.

 

The safety agenda I would like share with you is an agenda that advances consumer protection and maintains CPSC's position as the global leader in consumer product safety.

 

High on the list 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:

  • Continuing to propose and finalize mandatory safety standards for durable juvenile products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act - a sweeping child safety law that was passed in 2008 - requires that CPSC turn the voluntary standards for these products into federal safety rules. We have already completed the rules for cribs, play yards, toddler beds, infant walkers, baby bath seats, and bed rails. Some of you may have heard that the standards we created for cribs are the strongest in the world. This is true and our actions fulfilled a promise I made to American families and to our legislature. We have an upcoming vote to finalize a mandatory standard for infant swings and we are continuing to work on stronger rules for bassinets, cradles, hand held infant carriers, and strollers. We are saving lives and preventing injuries to children by creating tougher juvenile product rules.
  • Continuing to work on the safety of portable gas generators. These generators are often used by American consumers when there is a hurricane or ice storm that knocks out the power for extended period of time. Well, there are about 70 carbon monoxide related deaths per year involving these generators. Our engineers recently put out a report about new technology that can dramatically reduce deadly CO emission rates from certain gasoline-powered generators. With the adaptation of existing technology, CO rates can be lowered to levels that would save lives. Our staff predict that there would be an increase in the escape time from eight minutes to 96 minutes - that is a twelve-fold increase - for the deadly scenario when a consumer is running a generator in their garage. We have required a danger label that says, "Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes." But, the fact that we are still seeing a high number of deaths and injuries associated with portable generators means that we need technical solutions that can save lives.
  • Recreational off-highway vehicles are a popular off-road product in the United States, but they come with risks - risks compounded by the fact that these vehicles allow for passengers. There have been more than 170 deaths over the past nine years related to the use of these off-road vehicles. We started rulemaking in December 2009, and we are moving toward a proposed rule next year to make these vehicles safer - safer in terms of occupant protection, stability, and steering performance.
  • All-terrain vehicles, which are another type of off-road vehicle, remain a serious concern to the agency and to me. With more than 750 deaths per year, ATVs are the fourth most deadly product we oversee. We have been working to improve the safety of these vehicles for years. And just last week, we host a two-day Safety Summit and brought together researchers, medical professionals, the industry, and parents of children who died. The Summit was brought together parties that had never met or talking to each other, which is another sign of how we facilitate collaboration at CPSC. There were a lot of great ideas discussed - concerning vehicle performance, training, education - that I hope will save lives.
  • Upholstered furniture - such as couches and chairs - is involved in tens of thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths each year in the United States. We know that 90 percent of the addressable deaths are related to smoldering fires, and the vast majority of those are caused by cigarettes. CPSC staff has proposed a rule that would limit the fire spread in upholstered furniture without the need for manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals. This rule has the potential to be one of the top lifesaving rules in CPSC's history.

 

There are two fairly new rulemakings that I also want to share with you, because they address very serious risks.

  • First, is table saws. Would you believe that 11 people suffer amputations every day in the United States from using power saws that cut wood? It's true. We are exploring solutions at CPSC to save people from these life-altering injuries.
  • The other is gel fuels and firepots. Last December, the Commission voted unanimously to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, just months after nearly all bottles of pourable gel fuel used in firepots were recalled. The rulemaking was prompted by the number of serious injuries and deaths. We are aware of 65 incidents that have resulted in two deaths and at least 34 victims who were hospitalized. The victims had second- and third-degree burns of the face, chest, hands, arms or legs, after ignited gel fuel splattered on them. Our rulemaking is exploring the question of whether it is possible to make gel fuel safe for consumers to use.

 

A common attribute that runs through all of the product hazards I just discussed is that we have team leaders and technical staff at CPSC 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, in order to prevent injuries and deaths from entrapments, suffocations, rollovers, CO poisonings, fires, and finger amputations.

 

I can say with confidence that because of the progress we have made at CPSC, the state of product safety is strong - and it is built to last.

 

We are using our strength, not for short-term gains, but to create a sustainable product safety system.

 

We are not working in isolation; instead, we are working in collaboration, with many of you in this room.

 

We have created a system that is founded upon compliance with the stringent child safety and testing requirements.

 

A system that creates a regulatory approach that strives for injury prevention, rather than reaction.

 

Because of our commitment and your commitment to consumer protection, I predict that the global product safety net will continue to be strengthened.

 

This is a time when parents and grandparents can go shopping and know that almost all of the children's products they see in stores have been independently tested to new mandatory safety regulations. And all children's products are required to comply with those regulations.

 

This is a time when consumers have unprecedented access to safety information at their fingertips.

 

This is a time when foreign manufacturers increasingly understand the requirements established in the United States and other countries, and they know that there are consequences if they do not follow our safety rules.

 

This is a time when consumers are being well represented by their government and they are being better protected by a global system of safety that is getting stronger.

 

Together, through state of the art collaboration, we are building a product safety system that is built to last - built to last so that future generations of children and other consumers have an even greater level of safety.

 

Thank you once again to Bruce and the ICPHSO board for the invitation to speak here today. And I look forward to taking a few questions at the end.