Associations and product safety

The Maze, Safety Pin, Design icons

Product safety is a vital aspect of any consumer goods business. Businesses should manage product safety without relying on governments to intervene. And business and industry associations have a key role to play.

Business and industry associations exist to help members succeed and protect their interests. All associations should have a policy and measures in place to assist members achieve product safety.

Consumer product safety is increasingly complex and associations can help their members and the broader community in a number of 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 current recommendation for a General Safety Provision to be added to the Australian Consumer Law is a policy proposal that impacts all relevant associations. A discussion paper is expected out in coming months and all associations will need to engage with the discussion. This is the Big One.

In order to help members succeed and protect their interests’, associations will need to:

  • Assess the potential GSP impact on the sector
  • Canvass members views and argue for or against the proposal
  • Engage with the Treasury on the shape of the law
  • Prepare for possible change to the law and how to implement it

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

Associations and product safety

Call for change

It is now 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. These are all irrespective of a possible GSP.

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

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

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

My white paper also urged the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to utilise associations’ reach into the business community.  At the March 2019 Consumer Congress Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair expressed a keen interest in working with associations. It is hoped that the 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 be writing more about this in future blog articles. I am also engaging directly with associations to help spread the word. I look forward to working with more and more executives in coming months.