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Take the Lead on Safety Issues

"Safety First" should be your corporate mantra. Focusing on the safety of your products as you make them can help avoid complaints and litigation, give you a marketing edge and raise the bar for other manufacturers, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

You don't have to be a huge corporation to come up with safety innovations. For example, Martin Door Mfg., a small Salt Lake City firm, and Wayne-Dalton, a larger company in Mt. Hope, OH, were both confronted with a safety issue in the garage doors they made -- a large number of crushed or amputated fingers were reported after using their products.

The two companies took a proactive approach rather than waiting for an industry standard to address the problem. They developed a method to "pinch-proof" the hinged joints between the doors' panels. Their leadership challenged other manufacturers to meet the same high standards.

Taking the lead is the key to improving safety. There are several steps you can take -- even before a problem develops:

Investigate your customer base. Who will use your product? For example, will a ladder hold a 300-pound person painting a house? How about a 350-pound person? If the ladder could collapse under a certain amount of weight, warn the consumer.

Study how customers will use your product. Back to the ladder. Although it may be intended as a means to climb, some people are apt to use two ladders and a plank for makeshift scaffolding. Warn the consumer if a product isn't safe when it is used in ways you didn't intend.

Stay informed about product safety developments. For example, stronger materials may become available for the ladder.

Keep up with safety regulations, as well as safety precautions taken by other companies. When the garage door manufacturers realized they had a problem, there were no state or federal regulations regarding it. But both firms recognized that safety made good business sense.

Fully investigate reports of injuries and accidents. A problem could stem from unintended use, but it could also result from a manufacturing or design flaw. An inquiry can help you determine the cause, guide you toward fixing any defect, and let you know whether a product recall of the lot or the entire line is necessary. If a recall is needed, the Consumer Product and Safety Commission will work with you to ensure the plan is effective.

An added benefit: Consumers and the media tend to go easier on companies that police themselves and promptly deal with problems. The media can also get safety warnings out quickly, helping you to avoid future incidents and potential lawsuits.

© 2016