GAO Recommends Increased CPSC Participation in Voluntary Standard Development
By John Kuppens and Will Harter
On May 21, 2012, the GAO issued a report recommending that the CPSC review its policies for participating in the development of voluntary industry standards in order to determine the feasibility of increasing its role. The GAO believes that increased involvement in voluntary standard development could enhance the CPSC's oversight as well as strengthen the standards themselves. The CPSC supported the GAO's recommendation.
Currently, the CPSC limits its involvement in the development of voluntary standards because it wants to maintain impartiality and avoid any appearance of preferential treatment toward a particular standard organization. While the CPSC does participate in the development of select standards by monitoring them, attending development meetings, providing hazard and injury data, and providing input on draft standards, current CPSC regulation prohibits CPSC staff from voting on final standards or participating in any group that excludes other members such as the media or consumers. When the CPSC participates in the development of a voluntary standard, it is supposed to devise procedures to monitor compliance with that standard. It appears from the GAO investigation, however, that the CPSC has not devised procedures for monitoring compliance with all of the voluntary standards for which it has participated in developing.
The CPSC will consider compliance with voluntary standards in retrospect for the purpose of determining whether a substantial product hazard exists, and increased participation in standard development is likely to result in more stringent voluntary standards. If the CPSC decides to rely on a voluntary standard it helps to develop, then noncompliance will trigger a duty to report for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of the noncompliant product, which will likely add to the increasing number of penalties issued to those failing to adhere to reporting obligations.
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