Product Information

Looking Up: An Eye on Ladder Safety

Gutter cleaning and holiday decorating seasons are upon us. These quintessential fall and winter outdoor home projects have one thing in common, a lot of ladder usage by homeowners like yourself.

With more than 500,000 people treated in emergency departments each year due to ladder falls, it’s clear ladders pose safety hazards of which many consumers are not aware. In the construction industry alone, there are approximately 115 deaths annually due to falls from ladders. Falls like this cost society more than 24 billion dollars annually for medical bills, legal costs, lost wages, etc.

For many though, ladders are a necessary part of life to complete work and chores. Even with the safety hazards they pose, ladders will continue to be used so it’s up to manufacturers to design safer, easier to use equipment. Consumers like yourself should also know how to choose and use the correct equipment for the job.

Listen in as Kevin King discusses the hazards ladders pose, what designs to look for when choosing a ladder, and how to safely use your ladder.

For more information on choosing a ladder and ladder safety:

Read OSHA Report 3625

Also, don’t forget to download the Niosh Ladder Safety App before you begin using your ladder.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Santa Claus Surrogates: Toy Safety Guide

toy-safetyIf you’re playing Santa Claus for kids this year, get informed before you do your shopping. There are toys out there on the naughty list for being unsafe and you don’t want to give them to the children you love.

While the burden for toy safety should fall on manufacturers, surrogate Santa Clauses must still be alert. There are over three billion toys sold in the US each year and it’s hard to check all of them for compliance, ensuring manufacturers are following certification processes. In 2007 alone there were 30 million toys recalled, and those are just the ones that were caught. With more than 5,000 toys being introduced in the US each year, enforcement of safety standards is difficult.

From small, breakable parts to chemicals and lead based paint, there is a lot to look for when choosing the perfect toys. Listen in as Kevin King discusses toy safety and what you need to know to find toys safe toys on the nice list.

Additional resources for toy safety information include:

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Riding Safe: Selecting a Bicycle Helmet

Bicycle Helmet SafetyReady to cruise on your bicycle? Not without a helmet you’re not.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly half a million emergency room visits in 2013 were due to bicycle related injuries. Although not all of these injuries were head injuries, approximate 75 percent of 700 bicycle deaths each year are related to head injuries.

With the risk of head injuries significant, it is vital to wear a properly fitted helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent. Incredibly, only 21 states and the District of Columbia require helmets, but only of persons 17 years of age and younger.

Whether required by law or not, you need to be wearing a helmet on your bicycle. Selecting a bicycle helmet can be a daunting task to those outside the cycling industry as necessary information is not readily available and sometimes confusing. Bicycle helmets are marketed online, large retail stores, and bike shops. Prices can be very significant. With different styles and price ranges, what should you consider when purchasing an important aspect of bicycle safety?

One of the best sources of information is the Snell Memorial Foundation. Snell is a non-for-profit foundation working to provide information and independent testing of sport helmets, including bicycle helmets. When a helmet has been approved by Snell, there will be a Snell sticker inside the helmet. Consumers should look for a helmet that has been tested by Snell.

Snell testing covers four areas:

  1. Impact Management: This determines how well the helmet protects against collisions with large helmets.
  2. Positional Stability: This determines whether the helmet will be in place on the head in the event of a collision.
  3. Retention Strength: This determines whether the chin straps will sufficiently hold the helmet throughout the head impact.
  4. Overall Protection: This determines extent of protection to the head by the helmet.

Most consumers will find a label inside a helmet maintaining that the helmet meets Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard of March 1999. Snell testing augments the CPSC standard.

When you’re ready to purchase your helmet, it is suggested to purchase bicycle helmets from a dedicated bicycle shop. More likely true than not, bicycle shops will be familiar with proper fit and Snell approved helmets. Also strongly consider a helmet color that increases the cyclist visibility to motorists and pedestrians.

Besides Snell, is also a good resource for learning about bicycle helmet safety.

The Future Came Too Soon

HoverboardDoc Brown and Marty McFly had to travel all the way to the future to find a hoverboard. Now we’re living in that future, only the future may have come too soon. Thousands of hoverboards are being sold without proper hazard analysis and now consumers are being put in grave danger.

On December 16, 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement directing its agency staff to “work non-stop to find the root cause…” of fire hazards associated with hoverboards.

However, fire is not the only hazard relative to hoverboards. In the statement released by the CPSC, it also recognized that it has received dozens of reports of injuries from emergency rooms of hospitals relating to hoverboards.

Unbeknownst to consumers, risk of serious injury is associated with hoverboards. By comparison, approximately 120,500 people are treated annually in emergency rooms for skateboard injuries. Half of the injured are between the ages of 15-24. More than 34 percent are 14 and younger. Head injuries, fractures, internal organ injuries are some of the serious injuries.

Consumers are not aware of the ‘gravity of risk’ associated with hoverboard use. Consumers might believe that these incidents “only happen to someone else” or “I will be careful” in using a product. However, such wishful thinking is unacceptable regarding product design.

The most effective means to avoid incidents is by eliminating or reducing hazards during the design and development of a product before reaching consumers, but, as the saying goes, “it is too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

Designers and manufactures of hoverboards should have undertaken hazard analyses to identify unsafe physical conditions and risk analyses to determine the probability of serious injury and/or death. Within risk analyses, there should be further analyses to understand how consumers will use the product.

As the CPSC continues their investigation, they should demand designers and manufacturers provide their hazard and risk analyses regarding hoverboards. This would greatly assist the CPSC in its investigation. Otherwise, tax payers will end up footing the bill to determine root causes of why hoverboards are causing damage to consumers and property.

The future came too soon and now consumers are in harms way. It’s too late to go back, so now it’s time to find the way to a safer future.

All Plugged In: Extension Cord Awareness

Extension Cord AwarenessWith winter and the holiday season upon us, you’re outlets are probably all filled. You may have even moved to using extension cords to power Christmas trees, lights, inflatable decor, and other extras that come with the holidays and cold weather.

Were you aware the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords every year killing approximately 50 persons and injuring 270 others? Further, there are approximately 4,000 injuries per years relative to electrical extension cords treated in hospital emergency rooms. Therefore, the risk (probability of an untoward result occurring) is significant.

Consumer awareness regarding extension cords is a topic for concern. Most consumers are not aware of the hazards (unsafe physical conditions) relative to extension cords. Information regarding extension cords is not easy to understand and disbursed in various resources.

Consumers should only purchase extension cords that have the “UL” marking. This marking indicates that the extension cord manufacturer has complied with UL Standard 817. Unfortunately numerous extension cords are marketed without meeting the voluntary standard. It was not until August 26, 2015 that the CPSC issued a final rule maintaining extension cords would be deemed a substantial product hazard under the act unless the cords contained certain observable characteristics.

On top of ensuring the cord you purchased is UL compliant:

  1. Only use indoor extension cords for indoor needs. Select a low gage extension cord made designated for specifically for outdoor use if you are using it in outdoor conditions.
    One of the confusing aspects in the selection of an outdoor extension cord is the gage wire rating (wire diameter). It is opposite to what one would think. The smaller the number (i.e. 10, 12,) the thicker the wire. The thicker wire provides less resistance, therefore minimizing overheating.
    Extension Cord Gage Chart
  2. Do not use extension cords for heat producing appliances such as coffee pots, toasters, and space heaters. The electrical load from these devices often approaches the circuit capacity and adding cord length increases the chance of overheating.
  3. Do not concentrate or trap the heat of an extension cord. Coiling an extension cord can concentrate heat. The same is true for placing extension cords under a rug or carpeting. The trapped heat can damage the cord and lead to a fire.
  4. Only use the necessary length of extension cord for the application. For example, if your Christmas tree lights need a 6-foot cord, do not use a 12-foot cord.

A consumer product that is used every day by millions of Americans has diffuse and confusing information for which it is difficult for consumers to understand. This is another example of why safety engineering must be incorporated into products during the design and manufacture so hazards can be identified and eliminated to the extent reasonably possible. Otherwise, consumers are left on their own to search for piecemeal information about a product.

For more information about household extension cords causing fires, follow this link to a safety alert from the CPSC.

Cord Blind Strangulation is Happening

Kids & CordsInfants and young children are dying on a monthly basis due to corded blinds. WHY? That is one child too many every month.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a statement calling for removal of corded blinds from homes and the marketplace due to numerous, unacceptable infant deaths and serious injuries.

Designers, manufacturers, and distributors of corded blinds blame parents and others for the deaths and serious injuries to infants. Those same designers, manufacturers, and distributors should have known of hazards, risks, and dangers of their corded blind products. Instead they turn a blind eye and blame human err instead as they continue to market their deadly products.

Cut out the blaming of parents. The focus should be on hazard and risk analyses of corded blinds. Part of these analyses requires anticipation of how and in what manner a product will be used. Human err, if any, must be accounted for in the design of products. Designers must change the design to the extent reasonably possible to eliminate potential human err with the product.

Informational literature in a box and/or a warning is inadequate if hazards can be reasonably eliminated through design. A warning is not an acceptable solution if a product can reasonably be designed in a safer manner.

Remember, any risk of death or serious injury is unacceptable if reasonable prevention measures could eliminate the death or injury. Reasonable prevention begins with the design, long before a product reaches the hands of consumers.