Two years ago, New York, New York-based distributor In Record Time, Inc. (UPIC: INREP001) recognized a need for a more focused approach to product safety. That same year, the company joined PPAI and also became one of nearly 200 early adopters of the Association’s Product Safety Awareness Program.
“We produce a lot of products for the video game industry, and with more and more of the work we were doing going inside the gaming boxes we recognized that both our customers and IRT (In Record Time) needed to take the proper steps to start protecting all parties involved, especially the consumer who was buying the product,” says Adam Cott, the company’s president.
Cott and IRT Vice President Danielle Marx undertook the challenge of becoming educated about product safety issues in the industry, completing four hours of product safety training offered free to members of PPAI. This was all it took to earn the status of an early adopter with the Association, but the program was only the beginning of the company’s ongoing product safety efforts.
“We’ve created an internal protocol, and as we receive new information we pass this along to our staff so we can keep them abreast of new changes,” Cott says. “Since we are very fortunate to deal with high-profile accounts, we feel it is our responsibility to continue to educate ourselves, our customers and, in some cases, our suppliers.”
While companies such as IRT are increasingly taking up the mantle of product safety awareness and education, there is still more to do to protect the industry. Last month at The PPAI Expo, the Association announced its Product Safety Awareness Program, which requires every company wanting to gain access to the PPAI marketplace (as a sponsor, advertiser, trade-show exhibitor, etc.)—regardless of membership category—to complete a minimum of four hours of product safety education no later than the start of Expo East 2015 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The program is just one important part of a larger Pathway to Confidence initiative that also focuses on creating awareness and promoting the effectiveness of promotional products.
“We want distributors to be confident in their suppliers, and vice versa,” says PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. “But most important, we want promotional products buyers to be confident not only in the power of the medium but also in its safety.”
Until recently, it was primarily the industry’s big players who had the resources to implement product safety programs. But small- to medium-sized suppliers and distributors (those making less than $250,000 per year) are equally as capable of educating clients and staff about compliance. PPB asked three early adopters of the Association’s product safety awareness program operating small- to medium-sized companies to explain how they do it.
Q: How do you keep up with product safety information?
Melodie Van Setten, MAS, partner, Phoenix, Arizona, distributor Threadmasters LLC (UPIC: Thrdmster)
It has not been expensive to request documentation from our suppliers and keep it in the clients’ folders. Our clients know we keep this in their files in the event it is needed.
Adam Cott, president, New York, New York, distributor In Record Time, Inc. (UPIC: INREP001)
I created a partnership with SGS Global Testing, which helped us implement our product safety and compliance program. … As we’ve experienced growth in our business and continue to look to make additional hires, I am asking the firms we are working with and the people I am interviewing if they have any experience in product safety and compliance, so I can look to add more educated people to our staff.
Cami Chandler, owner/president, Billings, Montana, supplier Gibco (UPIC: GIBCO)
As owner of the company, I take safety seriously and have made it my personal goal to attend regular safety seminars and continuing education programs. I have found that by educating myself on what is required by law both nationally and internationally, communicating with customers has provided them with peace of mind. Distributors are selling bags, mugs, t-shirts and other logo-bearing items; they may not know what is required by law in selling toys. As a supplier, that’s my job. … We currently partner with five testing laboratories and coordinate all facets of the testing, including sending the required products, inks and labels. We send the test results to customers so they have them on file as well. We have found it helpful to build the testing costs into the per-piece product cost, so there is no additional invoice for testing.
Q: Distributors, how do you vet and monitor your supplier partners?
Van Setten: We use our suppliers’ documentation. If they do not test and supply the documents, then we do not order from them.
Cott: We have established protocols with SGS Global Testing, and we sent documents to our suppliers and put our supply chain on notice about the new protocols.
Q: How do you present your product safety knowledge to your customers?
Cott: We address it with many of them upfront, asking if this is something they have knowledge of and if they would like further information about our protocols.
Chandler: Product safety is a broad category that covers a wide array of information. From the country of distribution to age grading and label laws, we cover a lot of information on our website. Most customers find this a useful resource, and we have made it easily accessible for this reason.
Q: What lies ahead for your product safety program in the future?
Van Setten: Continued partnership with PPAI.
Cott: As IRT is about to become 20 years young, we are looking to launch a new website and blog that will contain information about the protocols IRT has in place and continue to put out more information for our existing customers and new customers to see.
Chandler: A continual commitment to safety compliance education is our goal. Levels of compliance are continually changing on an international level, and we must ensure our customers that we are educated and compliant.
>>About PPAI’s Product Safety Awareness Program
Developed by PPAI’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group and vetted through a number of committees and advisory groups, PPAI’s Product Safety Awareness Program is designed to foster an industry-wide commitment and culture where companies are not only aware of product safety, but also are engaged in the discussion.
For a company to attain the Product Safety Aware status, it must designate a roster employee to serve as a Product Safety Ambassador. This employee must complete four hours of product safety education in Product Safety Basics, Prop 65 and State Regulations, or Undue Influence Training. In addition, the employee may select any additional webinar from an approved list or any live program that is listed as a qualified training.
There is currently no cost for companies to attain Product Safety Aware status. PPAI’s goal is for all companies to become product safety aware by Expo 2015, not because it’s a requirement but because they understand and support the initiative. Companies that complete the requirement before the 2015 deadline will be added to the list of early adopters. To view this list and find answers to commonly asked questions about the program, visit www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/product-safety.