10 Ways To Get Up To Speed Quickly On Product Responsibility

For most distributors, the topic of product responsibility (a.k.a. product safety) in the promotional products industry is hardly top of mind. While you are vaguely aware of the various laws and regulations, and you know it is important to keep up with the topic, right now you have more important priorities, no extra resources and most of your customers don’t seem to care.

Well, compliance with federal and state laws is not optional, and ignorance won’t mitigate fines, legal fees and recall costs. Moreover, the customer who doesn’t care today will hold you responsible tomorrow if damage is done to its name and reputation from a product you sold. Imagine a call that starts out, “Do those bags we just gave out contain lead that could hurt my customers’ children?”

Once you get past the feelings of frustration, I’d suggest you embrace the opportunities that come with a commitment to product safety. As the expert, you can offer a value-add that differentiates you from competitors and highlights your role as a trusted counselor who goes beyond quoting prices.

So, how do you get started without ignoring the rest of your business?  Let’s start with these simple 10 steps:

  1. Bookmark the PPAI Product Safety Resource page at www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/product-safety. This page hosts a vast array of resources that will provide answers to your questions including articles, best practices and so much more.
  2. Try PPAI’s Promotional Product TurboTest (find it by clicking on Compliance in a Box at the site above). This online wizard will guide you through your compliance obligations and give you a sense of what testing and documentation is required for your specific product.
  3. Download PPAI’s Product Safety Communication Tool (find it by clicking on Product Guides at the site above). This simple worksheet will walk you through the process of discussing product safety with your customer.
  4. Identify one person within your firm to be responsible for getting up to speed on this topic and serving as your go-to product safety specialist. And, if you run a one-person shop, I guess you just got another job!
  5. Subscribe to PPAI’s weekly online newsletter, PPB Newslink, at pubs.ppai.org/subscribe. This newsletter delivers product safety news straight to your email inbox every Tuesday—and it’s free.
  6. Plan to start attending PPAI’s product safety webinars (click on Education and Live Webinars at www.ppai.org). Offered every other Wednesday at 1 pm CT, these webinars address all issues surrounding product responsibility and always leave plenty of time for questions and answers.
  7. Plan to attend The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas (January 13-17, 2014—find details at www.ppai.org/expo) and/or Expo East in Atlantic City (May 19-21, 2014—find details at www.ppai.org/expoeast) and take advantage of the live education presented at both of these venues.
  8. Scroll through PPAI’s list of frequently asked product responsibility questions (find it by clicking on Compliance in a Box at www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/product-safety). Odds are that you’ll find the answer you’re looking for.
  9. Reach out to your local regional association (find a list of regional associations by clicking on PPAI Sites/Regional Associations at www.ppai.org). There may be an opportunity for you to network with like-minded professionals who can help you take the next step on your compliance journey.
  10. Save this email address: AnneL@ppai.org to reach Anne Lardner-Stone, PPAI’s director of public affairs.

Gene Geiger, MAS, is president of Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger and chair of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group. He also co-chaired the 2013 PPAI Product Safety Summit.

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