Last week 500.000 bassinets produced by Burlington Basket Company and sold by Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, etc. have been recalled due to fall hazards. Burlington Basket was told by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to recall the product on February 16, 2011 after at least two infants were injured when the bassinets collapsed.
The CPSC identified the collapses were caused by cross-bracing rails that were not fully locked into place. Therefore Burlington Basket published a Safety Notice where it stated that customers should “make sure that the rails are properly locked.”
In 2007 over 1 million Simplicity and Graco cribs were recalled by the CPSC after discovering that a drop-side can detach from the crib which can create a dangerous gap and can lead to the suffocation of infants. Three Infants died after being trapped in these cribs. Another 1-year old child died in a newer model of the Simplicity crib because the drop-side was installed upside down.
There have been many recalls of cribs and bassinets due to substantial risks of injuries or even death because of design defects, manufacturing defects or failure to warn (i.e. marketing) defects.
How can manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of consumer products avoid those substantial risks in order to guarantee consumers safety? How can they identify and mitigate substantial risks? What do they have to do and what can they do if they identify a product defect? The following report provides you with an answer to these questions by giving you advice on how to prevent substantial product hazards and when to announce a recall.
Before and during the production process, manufacturers should follow the following guidelines:
(1) The greatest care has to be used during the entire production process. To prove the production process it is recommended to have made an external investigation of the consumer interests, the competitive products, and the industry standards. Another external investigation to prove any product risks is useful once the product design is determined. Generally, during the production process regular hazard analyses are recommended which should also be documented.
(2) Manufacturers should choose their distribution or business partners conscientiously. There must be a clear structure of the whole production process because all sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain can be held liable.
(3) Instructions for the product must be clear and simple so that an uninformed consumer will know how to install and to use the product. Furthermore, instructions and warning stickers with instructions should be affixed to the product itself.
(4) It is important to obtain product liability insurance and to contact an experienced product liability attorney because product liability actions are often very complex.
Following the production process, it is important to conduct regular investigations and to adjust the instructions and the warning stickers on the product. These steps are necessary to prevent or mitigate substantial risks of injuries. Whether there is a product defect which may cause a substantial product hazard and obliges manufacturers to make a recall can be identified by means of the following questions published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
(1) Manufacturers have to identify if the product has a defect or not.
1. What is the utility of the product? What is it supposed to do?
2. What is the nature of the injury that the product might cause?
3. What is the need for the product?
4. What is the population exposed to the product and the risk of injury?
5. What other information sheds light on the product and patterns of consumer use?
(2) If a product defect or signs of a product defect can be identified, the manufacturer or retailer should prove whether the defect might cause substantial product hazards.
According to Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act the term “substantial product hazard” means (1) a failure to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule or (2) a product defect because of the pattern of defect, the number of defective products distributed in commerce, or the severity of the risk.
For instance, the Burlington Basket bassinets were supposed to be a “sleeping place” for infants and young children. Probably due to a failure to warn defect customers did not make sure if the cross bracing support rails were in the locked position. Therefore, the bassinets could loose their stability and collapse. Child Safety Protection is an important issue which manufacturers have to guarantee. This defect is a substantial product hazard because bruises constitute severe injuries for children. Moreover, there might have been a pattern of defects because the instructions and warning stickers were too inaccurate.
Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of consumer products are obligated to inform the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission immediately (i.e. within 24 hours) if they discover such a substantial product hazard or a failure to comply with a consumer product safety rule. The Commission also monitors this itself and will inform the manufacturers, etc. if a recall has to be made.
Today, “a timely, reasonable recall of a product can have a strong influence on consumers’ attitude about the firm because consumers now believe they enjoy a safer better product as a result of a recall.” (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission).
(c) Picture: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Family_g212-Infant_p29114.html.
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs