WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an unprecedented initiative by the three product safety agencies of North America, technical staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Health Canada, and Mexico’s Consumer Protection Federal Agency (PROFECO) have developed consensus recommendations to improve test methods for ensuring the safety of alternating current (AC) chargers and universal serial bus (USB) chargers.
In joint tri-lateral letters to the standards development organizations in the three jurisdictions, the product safety agencies recommended new testing to assess the potential for fire and burn hazards caused by AC-powered chargers for small electronic devices. This collaboration represents the first example of a joint consumer product safety standard recommendation developed among multiple governments that are not members of a single administrative region.
The joint letters conclude a multi-year project under the three agencies’ “Early Consultation Initiative.” The stated goal of the Early Consultation Initiative was to foster closer alignment of consumer product safety requirements through technical consultations. The strategy was to seek consensus approaches to consumer product hazards not yet being addressed through formal regulatory or standards work.
In the joint letters to U.S.-based Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), Canada-based CSA group, and the Mexican government’s Directorate General of Standards (DGN), staff cited numerous incidents of injuries. These included burns from contact with hot surfaces on an electronic device, or the charger itself; fires and explosions that initiated within the charger, or in one of the cords attached to the charger; and electric shock injuries from user-contact with an exposed energized conductor when the charger housing is breached by melting, or when the housing breaks apart. Incidents also included lithium-ion battery fires as a result of improper charging. The letters noted that incidents are more prevalent when an AC charger or USB charger has not been evaluated and certified by a third party testing facility. The trilateral team examined incident data and analyzed existing voluntary standards before proposing new testing procedures and requesting that standards developers add the tests to their current standards.
“This initiative has proven, at least on a small scale, that multiple jurisdictions can develop consensus recommendations to improve voluntary safety standards, if they consult early and compare data and experience,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. “We are very hopeful this will provide a template for future initiatives.” Buerkle added that a second round of the Early Consultation Initiative will be underway during 2019.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
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