Notes from International Product Safety Week 2014

Global product safety

The Maze, Safety Pin icons

Last week was international product safety week. More than 40 countries from around the world were represented at a range of meetings in Brussels, Belgium.

Most people came from around Europe, but others had travelled from Canada, USA, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and South America.

The Big Ticket item was a summit between the European Union, USA and China.

Also on the program was:

  • A Conference on the Consumer Product Safety and Market Surveillance legislation in the European Union
  • A PROSAFE seminar on joint international market surveillance activities
  • An International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organisation (ICPHSO) two-day international symposium
  • An OECD/ICPSC Global Forum – for national regulatory agencies; and
  • A RAPEX-China Working Group meeting between the EU and China

Some meetings were open only to officials, but the market surveillance conference, the PROSAFE seminar and the ICPHSO symposium allowed participants from all sectors to meet, learn and exchange ideas. I went to these three events over four days.

Gail Greatorex with Marc Schoem

Gail Greatorex with Marc Schoem of the US CPSC

EU, USA and China got together

The trilateral EU-China-US consumer product safety summit held at the end of the week has reported successful discussions on joint activities to monitor and control product safety along the whole of the supply chain. Supply chains have become increasingly complex (see below) and it’s essential that international leaders attend to the whole system.

The trilateral summit also focussed on product traceability as a key element in achieving safe supply and product recalls.

See the media release report

PROSAFE – the watchdogs

PROSAFE is the non-profit professional organisation for market surveillance authorities and officers across Europe.

PROSAFE has posted its whole 19 June 2014 seminar online as a recorded video, with presentation slides alongside.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has established a program to help co-ordinate product safety initiatives world-wide.  Mr Peter Avery, Head of the OECD Secretariat Consumer Policy Unit, attended throughout the week.

It is vital that the various organisations get together regularly to ensure co-ordination across programs, and of course to exchange ideas.

Gail Greatorex & Peter Avery

Gail Greatorex with Peter Avery of the OECD

A few particular points for me

Supply web?

Ikea’s presentation struck a chord with everyone.  They showed a graphic of the ‘supply chain’ involved in the production of a stuffed toy panda.

The number of players involved – for raw materials, component parts, factories and traders – was remarkable.  26, yes 26, different companies were involved in preparing that panda for Ikea’s customers!

And the 26 companies are not so much a chain as a network, or web.

The term ‘Supply Web’ replaced ‘supply chain’ for the rest of the week and underlines the complex nature of production and management in the global environment.

3D printing

The ability to make products and components with 3D printing will impact product safety.

A presentation outlined just some of the issues 3D printing will raise. But it was said to be a potential game-changer.

I plan to write soon in The Maze blog on various aspects of 3D printing.

Button battery safety

A feature of International Product safety Week was the launch of the OECD’s International Awareness Week on Button Battery Safety.

This is a great example of global and inter-sectoral collaboration to highlight the hazard of small coin-sized lithium batteries – so common in electronic gadgets.

Governments, including Australia, and private organisations around the world highlighted the issue and will continue to raise awareness.

Emerging – and merging – trends

ICPHSO president, Ann Weeks, is Vice-President of Government Affairs at Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Ann said in 2014 she is observing two particular trends

  • Better company-initiated management of their supply networks; and
  • Market-driven/consumer-demand for company transparency and better product quality.

Ann believes these two factors are related and are both positive developments for consumer product safety. I’m sure this is true.