On June 28, 2017, consumer product safety professionals from around the world met in Toronto, Canada for the International Consumer Product Health, and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) 2017 North American Regional Product Safety Training Workshop. The workshop’s theme, “To Compliance and Beyond: Cooperation for Safety” was certainly at the forefront, as regulators, manufacturers, distributors, attorneys, consumer advocates, product safety professionals, and others were all on hand to discuss how cooperation in the industry would be beneficial to all.
The program was developed by ICPHSO members in response to topics requested, and based upon preliminary post survey results, the training workshop was a success delivering on the identified priorities. Improving product safety was on the mind of the nearly 200 attendees during the training workshop and during the networking opportunities provided during the workshop.
A busy day of interactive, dynamic, and stimulating discussions with speakers from industry, retailer executives, and product safety regulatory staff resulted in a lively and timely discussion of product safety issues. Panel sessions covered a wide range of topics including, jurisdictional reporting requirements, recalls, innovation in product safety, and compliance management, all with a focus on facilitating understanding of product safety within a collaborative framework. Parallel sessions included tutorials presented by Health Canada and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
In addition to the panel sessions, consumer product regulatory leaders discussed the spirit of collaboration during their keynote presentations.
The Deputy Minister of Health Canada, Simon Kennedy opened the training workshop in the morning and noted that his role involves oversight of much more than consumer products, including food, drugs, medical devices, pesticides, and more. However, he was very happy to be in attendance for the workshop, and was appreciative of the opportunity to work alongside the United States’ CPSC in trying to ensure the safety of Canada’s citizens.
In particular, Deputy Minister Kennedy touted the passage of the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) six years ago as allowing Health Canada to more readily work alongside the CPSC. In discussing the CPSA, Mr. Kennedy noted that Canada’s Hazardous Products Act, the CPSA’s predecessor, did not provide Health Canada with the appropriate tools to enact corrective measures other than requesting a voluntary recall. Essentially, once a hazard was identified, Health Canada would need to sometimes wait years for the Parliament to pass remedial legislation. The CPSA’s passage has been a welcome addition for Health Canada, and has allowed the organization to adapt to the rapidly evolving marketplace.
Mr. Kennedy recognized future challenges, which include a variety of difficult balancing tests such as innovation vs. safety; the need for predictability of compliance with regulations for industry; collaboration while seeking to stay impartial; and consciousness of “human” and economic factors. At base, the Deputy Minister was very happy that the CPSA is providing the degree of protection Canada deserves, and emphasized that Canada is committed to be at the leading edge of innovation – alongside the United States.
In the afternoon, Acting Chairman of the CPSC, Ann Marie Buerkle, spoke to the attendees, putting a great emphasis on the CPSC’s collaborative relationship with Health Canada. She was grateful to have met with Deputy Minister Kennedy and his colleagues, and reiterated the need for cooperation between agencies, pointing to many recent bilateral recalls, and even trilateral recalls with Mexico’s PROFECO. Chairman Buerkle also noted challenges in the consumer products industry, in particular, noting the industry’s difficulty with diagnosis and correction of recent problems with lithium-ion batteries, as well as assessment of recall effectiveness.
Overall, Chairman Buerkle’s message was that collaboration should never be seen as a sign of weakness. She emphasized, “We should embrace each other’s knowledge.”
ICPHSO continues to coordinate these events throughout the world to promote further collaboration among the various product safety stakeholders. Clearly, the message from the keynote speakers and the information presented during the workshop sessions stressed the need for all safety and health professionals to continue to work together with the hope that greater collaboration will lead to a more effective regulatory environment, and most importantly, a safer marketplace for consumers.
Thanks to ICPHSO Vice President Matt Howsare, ICPHSO attendee Shawn Skolky (Mintz Levin) and ICPHSO Board Member and Toronto Planning Chairman Eli Szamosi for contributing to this summary.