September 2019


Associations key to better product safety

by Gail Greatorex, Owner and Principal, Product Safety Solutions

Business and industry associations have a key role to play in consumer product safety.

Associations exist to help members succeed and protect their interests and all should have policies and measures in place to assist members achieve safe products.

As a product safety advocate, I am keen for associations to become more active in the product safety space. They are the link between business, industry, consumers and government. Some already have a strong culture and good programs in place.

I encourage regulators, like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to engage more with associations as conduits to the product supply sector.

Consumer product safety is increasingly complex and associations can help their members and the broader community in several ways, such as:

• education and awareness for members, the broader sector and consumers
• guidance on safe design, regulations and testing
• facilitating networks
• policies, such as recall preparedness and button battery compliance
• advocacy on self-regulatory and regulatory matters.

General safety provision

The recommendation for a general safety provision (GSP) to be added to the Australian Consumer Law is a policy proposal that impacts on businesses and associations. A discussion paper is expected soon and all associations will need to engage with the discussion.

Associations need to:

• assess the potential GSP impact on the sector
• canvass members’ views and argue for or against the proposal
• engage with Treasury on the shape of the law
• prepare for possible change to the law and how to implement it.

If an association is against a GSP, having its own product safety programs could aid its argument.

Call for change

It is now more than 12 months since I published a white paper: Consumer product safety in Australia: Challenges for practitioners and business managers. The paper recommended a range of strategies available to business and industry associations. All are irrespective of a possible GSP.

Since then, I am aware of some great initiatives by several associations. In addition to existing programs at organisations like the Australian Toy Association, the National Retail Association and Accord, two others stand out:

Infant and Nursery Products Alliance Australia – INPAA director Tim Wain is driving safety across the industry with a revival of the INPAA brand. Its website provides guidance and information for industry members and consumers. INPAA is actively developing safety guidelines for individual products.

The Australasian Promotional Products Association is developing a basic online product safety training program, in association with its US counterpart, the Promotional Products Association International.

My white paper urged ACCC to use associations’ reach into the business community. At a March 2019 Consumer Congress, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard expressed a keen interest in working with associations. I hope ACCC will establish an ongoing engagement program to facilitate and support associations’ product safety initiatives.

I believe associations represent a vital opportunity to improve consumer product safety and will pursue this through a range of platforms (sign up for updates on my website or social media).

I am also engaging directly with associations to help spread the word. I look forward to working with more executives to achieve better consumer product safety.

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