Summit Programming Highlights Critical And Timely Product Safety Issues

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CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler’s talk on ethics engages and entertains the audience, while also making them think.

Monday’s opening of the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit started strong with a topic that’s becoming more and more commonplace: product recalls. The simulated recall crisis and panel discussion featured Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Carol Cave and Edelman’s Ryan Cudney moderated by Crowell and Moring Senior Vice President Cheryl Falvey. Audience members participated by text vote on what they would do, from a legal, compliance and PR standpoint, as the crisis escalated. The experts then gave their opinion on what the ideal reaction should be to comply with the law and to avoid damage to the company’s brand.

The programming continued with a timely session on the evolving regulations regarding shipping lithium-ion batteries, given recent highly publicized incidents involving spontaneous combustion in some consumer products containing the batteries. George Kerchner, senior regulatory analyst with Wiley Rein, LLP and executive director of the Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA), spoke about how the regulations for shipping lithium-ion cells and batteries are getting very restrictive. “If you can keep it on a boat or on the ground, the regulations are so much easier to comply with,” he says.

Kerchner emphasized that companies need to keep their liability in mind. “If you offer it [to a shipper such as UPS], you’re on the hook … if you don’t have the capability to determine if a product’s testing is correct, you shouldn’t be offering the product.”

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(Left) Summit participants give full attention to the demonstration of how best to respond to a product recall crisis. (Right) TWINTECH’s David Tai asks the panel a question in a breakout session.

CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler gave a riviting ethics class after lunch, with examples of complex ethical dilemmas that have no right answer. Because of the pace of business in the real world, he encouraged audience members to consider a simple evaluation process when trying to make the most ethical decisions, such as the Golden Rule or the “gut test”—meaning if it feels like the right thing to do.

Afternoon breakout sessions included a panel discussion with Rick Brenner, MAS+, president and CEO of Logical Advisors, and John Copeland, co-owner of Energy Assurance. The discussion focused on the critical need for safety and certification when sourcing lithium-ion batteries. A second breakout session took an in-depth look at the three sides (company, government, legal) of a real powerbank product recall in Canada with Staples Promotional Products Director Tabatha Bauer, Mintz Levins Attorney Chuck Samuels and Carlie Watson, Health Canada Regional Manager, Consumer Product Safety. Session participants learned key differences in product safety incident reporting requirements in the U.S. and Canada.

The day’s seminars ended with “Best Practices For Mitigating Risk And Managing Communication,” where participants shared information and tips from their own experiences with the group.

Scheduled small group dinners on Monday night allowed attendees to continue important conversations at a variety of restaurants nearby.

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