THE ROBINSON REPORT #33: A JOURNEY FOR SAFETY – DATA, CONSUMER PRODUCTS, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY & ISRAEL

Last month, I traveled to Israel to meet with an NGO, industry stakeholders, a voluntary standards organization, manufacturers, scientists, and researchers. As the marketplace becomes increasingly global, understanding all phases of the international supply chain, including the research and development (R&D) stage, is critically important. Traveling to Israel was key to a better understanding of how the R&D phase is often conducted for new and emerging technologies.

The main goals of my trip were:  (1) gathering information on improving data collection and analysis for consumer product incidents, injuries, and deaths; (2) educating those engrossed in the R&D economy about consumer product safety challenges to inspire solutions; (3) informing entrepreneurs from “The Start-up Nation” about the many possible consumer product safety consequences to new, innovative, and technologically advanced products; and (4) learning more about the Israeli standards development process.

Beterem

One of my first visits was with Beterem, a not-for-profit organization promoting child safety and creating safer environments for Israeli children. Beterem developed its National Pediatric Injury & Safety Surveillance system (“NAPIS”) using the CPSC’s NEISS as a model. However, NAPIS has surpassed NEISS in the breadth and depth of its data components. NAPIS includes comprehensive media surveillance, emergency department intake data, hospitalization survey data, and death data. Moreover, Beterem collects additional data points on incidents through its Bedside Survey program performed by medical professionals who also counsel families on how to have an overall safer home environment. Through this program, the product-injury incidents have been dramatically reduced. By the end of this year, nearly two-thirds of Israeli emergency departments will be included in NAPIS. I am hopeful that we can learn from Beterem’s model and implement some of its data gathering techniques into the CPSC’s approach to data.

The Technion

Next, we visited The Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology. One of the finest institutions in the world, The Technion is working on advanced R&D in areas affecting consumer product safety such as nanotechnology, sensor technology, and advanced chemical research.

The Technion’s researchers work collaboratively, aiming for cross-pollination of ideas both internally and with several large multinational companies and universities. Additionally, The Technion’s Bronica Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) fosters innovation and entrepreneurial activities and offers assistance to students and fellows in promoting their ideas throughout the process of building a start-up.

We stressed that The Technion’s students, fellows, and professors are exactly the people to work on solving the key consumer product safety challenges through their targeted R&D. One great idea that developed from our meetings was that the CPSC should develop a Code of Conduct for Researchers, reminding researchers to anticipate the consumer product safety consequences of their R&D phase work.

Meeting with Industry Stakeholders

I also had the pleasure of having one-on-one site visits with two Israeli companies: a games company and a sensor company. These meetings were extremely informative on a number of issues including the challenges of interacting with standards’ bodies, the CPSC, and other countries’ regulatory bodies. These meetings proved to be some of the highlights of my trip.

I also spoke at a seminar for Israeli business leaders, co-sponsored by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) and the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). The seminar participants were those exporting products to the United States and those working with advanced technology products to be used worldwide. At the seminar, I described how the CPSC engages with industry in various ways, such as working on voluntary standards and providing business information through our Small Business Ombudsman’s office. (I addressed many of the same topics as in my previous blog entry.) Approximately forty participants attended and engaged in a robust discussion. I enjoyed meeting afterwards with several individual participants and was pleased with how many Israeli companies are eager to get involved with the CPSC and are committed to consumer product safety.

Standards Institution of Israel (SII)

We met with officials at the Standards Institution of Israel (“SII”) and took a tour of its testing laboratory. SII conducts standard-setting, testing, certification, and training activities. SII assists Israel’s integration into the global marketplace by coordinating with other countries’ standard-setting bodies. As a Commissioner, I have made a tremendous effort to understand how different voluntary standards committees work around the world and what is and is not effective in the standards-setting processes to best protect consumers. While SII incorporates many of the same procedures as other standards-making bodies, it is unique in other aspects and we learned a great deal in looking at their different approach.

By sharing what I have learned with CPSC staff, I hope the CPSC and SII can teach each other new ways to approach standard setting in the increasingly ubiquitous international eCommerce environment.

Sharing with and Learning from Each Other.

Our interconnectedness via the internet has made today’s marketplace a global one, with everyone from multinational conglomerates to sole proprietorships harnessing international supply chains to sell their goods worldwide.

Sharing with and learning from industry stakeholders around the world helps promote safer products here in the United States. Two years ago, I visited China where one of my stops was in Liuyang, the global epicenter of fireworks production, and learned first-hand about the manufacture of fireworks. I was able to take what I learned about the process and work with staff and other Commissioners to try to improve our fireworks regulations.

Likewise, I am hopeful that the lessons I learned from our Israeli stakeholders and the information I shared with them will ultimately improve consumer product safety. I am eager to explore ways we can improve our data collection and am also hopeful that by sharing information such as the Chairman’s Challenge and Staff’s Report on Advanced Technology, Israeli scientists and start-ups may be able to find practical solutions to some of our current and future trickiest consumer products safety problems.

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