It has been nearly four years since enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA; Public Law 110-314), landmark legislation to enhance the authority and resources of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and nearly one year since enactment of HR 2715 (Public Law 112-28), legislation to "fix" some of the problems inherent in CPSIA. In that time, the CPSC has gone from a little-noticed agency to one that is in the thick of things, promulgating rules and product safety standards at a quick clip.
In testimony before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade on August 2, CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum pointed to some of CPSC's recent work and accomplishments:
- Implementation of the CPSIA mandate for mandatory safety standards for most infant and toddler products;
- Promulgation of a rule to require third-party testing for children's products;
- Efforts to address hazards such as the flammability of upholstered furniture, amputations from table saws, ingestion of rare earth magnets and coin and button cell batteries;
- Collection of data on injuries, illnesses, and deaths (and risk of same) from consumers through the SaferProducts.gov public database;
- Increased surveillance at U.S. ports of entry to inspect and detain shipments of products that violate U.S. consumer product safety standards; and
- Review of existing regulations in accordance with President Obama's Executive Orders 13579 and 13563.
The other three commissioners offered their perspectives of CPSC activities at the oversight hearing, with Commissioners Nancy A. Nord and Anne Meagher Northup providing some sharp criticims about recent CPSC rulemaking activities. Commissioner Nord opined that "I am deeply concerned that we have over-read our congressional mandate and failed to consider the effects our actions have on the important balance between safety and efficiency," while Commissioner Northup pointed to several Commission actions that, in her opinion, did not fully consider benefits and costs. Commissioner Robert S. Adler focused his remarks on the successes CPSC has achieved during its 40 year history, including a 92% drop in childhood poisonings, 92% reduction in crib deaths, 92% reduction in fatal electrocutions, and 46% reduction in residential fire deaths. He also called on the CPSC to increase its focus on risks posed to older Americans, a segment of the population that is increasingly vulnerable to injuries and deaths associated with consumer products.
What does this mean for electrical manufacturers? Simply this: the CPSC is relevant, focused, and active in pursuing its mission to "protect[ing] the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products." The agency is, in the words of Chairman Tenenbaum, committed to "the pursuit of public-private collaborations and consensus based solutions, whenever we can, to new and emerging product safety issues." In other words, it behooves our industry to continue to engage proactively with CPSC and demonstrate why the U.S. electrical system is the safest in the world.