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Apparel Manufacturers Suggest CPSC Strategies

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

At a hearing called by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop priorities and strategies for the coming year, Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, outlined the role apparel manufacturers can play in promoting product safety.

Burke said the newly-enacted Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) presents difficulties in understanding and implementation, but he praised the additional funding for CPSC, the addition of three commissioners and a "positive dialogue" focusing on improved product safety. However, he said, implementation of the CPSIA has been a "considerable challenge that has exacted extraordinary costs and has resulted in some companies getting out of the children's wear business."

Burke pointed to four lessons that he believes should be considered as implementation of the act moves forward:

  • "It takes time to phase in new product safety regulations. For our industry it can take nearly a year for a single garment to travel the supply chain. New regulations must give industry enough time to adapt the supply chain so we can understand and clearly communicate changes to our industry.
  • "Regulations should take effect prospectively and only after there is clear and  comprehensive regulatory guidance from the commission. The retroactive application of regulations unfairly punishes businesses for making products in good faith, especially when they were made in compliance with a previous product safety standard.
  • "All product safety standards should be designed to mitigate and protect against specific risks and be clearly supported by data and facts. Understanding new safety regulations involves understanding how they will address a specific hazard. Without that, the standards seem arbitrary, and that perception undermines the standard's effectiveness and acceptance.
  • "Product safety standards that work best are those that are created through transparent and predictable process. The product safety community involves a range of stakeholders, all of whom need to participate. If one group appears to be shut out, the final result may not be predictable or accepted by all. This, in the long run, results in a product safety regime that is not sustainable. Product safety should be based on fact, and not politics."
September 1, 2009