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Product liability suits and regulatory product defect enforcement actions associated with consumer foreseeable – and unforeseeable – misuse have become the norm. Consumer product companies can mitigate these risks by focusing on use-related hazards and user-centered designs in an effort to reduce injuries and improve the usability of products. But the real question is how far to go with these efforts — at what cost and for what incremental benefit.

On March 15, 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission published Draft Guidance on the Application of Human Factors to Consumer Products for industry comment by May 14, 2018. The draft guidance was developed in conjunction with Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Directorate. CPSC and Health Canada aim to increase product safety by explaining to product designers and manufacturers how to incorporate human factors[1] into the design process.

The draft guidance describes the product design process and provides guidance on human factors considerations at each stage and then summarized in the graphic depictions collected at the end of this post. Because the guidance is not an enforceable rule, no cost benefit analysis accompanies the myriad of product design recommendations proposed.

Continue Reading CPSC Reaction to Consumer Misuse – Human Factors Design Process

Furniture installation

I was feeling rather smug, having ordered a children’s product and shipped it home in advance of visiting my parents with my four year old. But as I was congratulating myself on advanced planning, I received a series of emails from my parents. The product required some assembly, and the instructions appeared to be incorrect. I confess my initial reaction was concern – perhaps my parents were losing mental dexterity earlier than expected? But more emails followed, explaining that the company’s customer service center had told my parents that, yes, the instructions were incorrect and revised instructions were in the works. With some phone guidance, the product was finally assembled. My parents were understandably frustrated by the whole experience.  So much for advanced planning!

While at first blush this scenario sounds like a customer service issue, it could also have real legal implications.  Continue Reading Some Assembly Required: When Product Instructions Implicate Legal Concerns

EPA has proposed a new rule to restrict the use of seven toluene diisocyanates (TDIs) in consumer products.  TDIs are commonly used in the production of polyurethanes found in foams, coatings, elastomers, adhesives and sealants used in consumer products.  Flexible foams (for cushioning) and rigid foams (for insulation) are the chief uses for TDI.

Published on January 15, 2015, the proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) would apply to all consumer products containing any of the seven TDIs.  In most instances, consumer products will be covered by the rule if they contain these chemicals at any level of concentration.  All manufacturers, importers, and product processers utilizing these chemicals would be required to notify EPA at least 90 days before such activity commences or resumes.  This would give EPA an opportunity to examine the intended use of products, evaluate the risks and potential hazards, and potential ban or restrict the products’ manufacture, processing or import.

For more information about this proposed rule, including information and deadlines for submitting public comments, see our full report here.

On November 13, 2013, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted 3-1 to publish notice of a proposed interpretive rule that would establish standards for voluntary product recalls, revising 16 CFR part 1115. As approved, the proposed rule, which originally focused on the form and content of recall notice, incorporates several substantive amendments introduced by Commissioner Robert Adler during the November 13 meeting. These amendments would eliminate the option to engage in a voluntary recall without entering into a legally binding agreement and would allow the Commission to seek compliance terms as part of a firm’s binding corrective action plan governing the conduct of the recall. Notice of the proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on November 21, 2013. 78 Fed. Reg. 69,793 (Nov. 21, 2013).

Click to read the full client alert on Crowell.com.