In the Beginning…

As we look ahead to 2017 and our upcoming Annual Meeting and Training Symposium, I wanted to take a step back and look at how ICPHSO began.  Many members and attendees to the Symposium only know us as the organization with the hard to pronounce name (Ick-Fa-So).

It all began in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 18, 1993.  Twenty-four individuals from across the United States, Canada and Europe gathered to organize what would eventually become the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO).

ICPHSO grew out of the Association of Food and Drug Officials’ (AFDO) Product Safety Committee.  AFDO is comprised of federal, state, and local Food and Drug Officials and related industry.  In 1993, AFDO’s existing Consumer Product Safety Committee wanted to address product safety issues both nationwide and within individual states.  The Committee had modest success, but was never able to reach its full potential because very few Food and Drug Officials were involved in consumer product safety programs.  Food issues dominated the AFDO’s mandate, not consumer product safety.

So, some members of the AFDO along with other state and industry representatives, decided to see if it was the right time to make a change.  The purpose of the West Palm Beach meeting was to determine the feasibility of starting an organization dedicated solely to product safety.

The twenty-four individuals who attended that first meeting represented regulators (among them David Schmeltzer and Ross Koeser from CPSC as well as Elizabeth Nielsen from Canada’s Office of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, whose functions are now within Health Canada), the regulated industry (among them, Toy Manufacturers of America – now TIA, Coca Cola, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, DC Attorney Michael Brown and the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association) , regulators representing eight states, consumer representatives and two international representatives from the United Kingdom and Canada.

The meeting set the wheels in motion for a new organization.  During the two-day discussion, it became apparent to the attendees that for ICPHSO to be independently successful, it would have to adapt to reflect less polarizing issues such as education, networking, and professional growth.  Out of that meeting a letter describing the new organization was issued that defined ICPHSO.  It read:

“A forum for international, federal, state and local regulators, members of regulated industry, and members of public interest groups to meet to discuss their various perspectives and concerns.  In short, a setting to “network” for the discussion of ideas, approaches and problems with other product safety professionals.”

The first Annual Symposium was held in Orlando, Florida in 1994 and was attended by 137 people from around the globe.  Over the following two years, an average of 150 people regularly attended.

Following the fourth symposium in 1997, it was time for ICPHSO to go on its own after being dropped by AFDO.   Ross Koeser, then President, was determined to bolster the young organization and hired a part time Executive Assistant, incorporated ICPHSO as a 501(c)3) non-profit organization and set up an office in Maryland.

And away ICPHSO went without ever looking back.  Several significant changes occurred at the 1998 Symposium.  For the first time, with the support of David Schmeltzer, then Director of Compliance at CPSC, a “Compliance Workshop” was held one day prior to the 1998 Annual Meeting and Symposium.  Over 90 people attended the successful half-day session, including manufacturers, importers, retailers, trade associations, international, state and local government, media, consumer advocates, and special interest groups.  The half day CPSC Compliance Workshop focused on the CPSC Compliance Program, and featured discussions around the industry’s reporting obligations, CPSC expectations for voluntary recalls, and how compliance activities relate to voluntary product safety standards. (All sound familiar?)  Then-Chairman Ann Brown, introduced the tradition of having the sitting CPSC Chairman present the keynote speech as part of the CPSC Compliance Program.

During the symposium, time was put aside to bring state contacts of CPSC to hold their annual meeting in conjunction with the ICPHSO meeting, thanks to then ICPHSO President Ross Koeser, who was the Director of State and Local Programs at CPSC.

This Symposium also saw the creation of an International Caucus which helped draw an increased global audience thanks to Elizabeth Nielsen (Canada) and Michael Drewry (Scotland). The following year several members of the Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe (PROSAFE) attended the Symposium which boosted international focus, interest, and attendance.

Finally, the format of the Annual Symposium was changed to a workshop style that encouraged more interaction between the audience and the presenters.

From there – ICPHSO continued to grow and added the American Bar Association’s Consumer Product Safety Law Seminar to the Annual Symposium, following in the footsteps of the CPSC Compliance Program to provide legal training and guidance on various consumer product safety issues.

In 1999, former President Ross Koeser, started as part time Executive Director.  In October 2015, I became ICPHSO’s first full time Executive Director.

As you can see, what began as a small undertaking by twenty-four dedicated volunteers, became an organization boasting over 450 members and holding three conferences every year. None of this could have been done without the dedicated health and safety professionals from all segments of product safety volunteering their time, and in many cases their organization’s and own resources to assure that ICPHSO is truly a global organization that remains a neutral forum for all stakeholders.  This commitment keeps consumer product safety on top of everyone’s agenda and provides safer consumer products globally.  It’s a true testament to the hard work and passion for product safety by the ICPHSO Founding Members that many of the original supporting organizations remain active today.  Among them –  JPMA, CFA, CPSC, Health Canada, PROSAFE, TIA, Fisher-Price/Mattel, McDonalds, Disney, Coca Cola, and many others.

We expect even more good things in 2017!

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