Most products made do what they say they are going to do, but some have flaws or defects or are mislabeled in such a way that they can be hazardous or deadly.
We were reminded of this recently when we went to a daycare center and saw a travel play pen that had been recalled many years ago because, when improperly assembled, it had caused the death of something on the order of a dozen infants. The manufacturer had done the right thing and had recalled the product as soon as they learned how the portable crib caused injury. And yet, here it was in all its glory. When we showed the owner of the daycare center how the crib had killed, she was shocked and immediately pulled the children out of it, broke it so it could never be used again, and threw it out.
But some owners simply never learn about the recall products, whether it be childcare products, cars, lawn equipment, appliances, et cetera. This means that some end up being sent to the local thrift shop or end up in some other second-hand market.
So what do you as a business owner need to do?
Obviously, as a manufacturer you need to actively try to assure that your products are safe, and take timely action if they are not. The question of timeliness is interesting. In the excellent business writing course authored by Peter Vogel and offered at Learning Tree, one of the questions posed is this: What should a business writer do in writing the product information for a product that has been discovered to be flawed, but is slated to be repaired? Since business writers are at the bottom of the corporate food chain, you can imagine what a struggle it was for those higher up the food chain ant Merck when dealing with early contradictory information regarding Vioxx. One wonders whether, in hindsight, the folks at Merck think they should have acted earlier.
As a manufacturer, you have to be concerned about more than just your designs. You also have to be concerned about the materials you use. If you use welding rod, for example, some welding rod that has been recalled may work just fine for hobby work, but may no longer be acceptable for welding high-temperature steam pipes. This is stuff you need to know, so you need to schedule appropriate checks with those bodies that regulate the items.
As a business you need to have a list of the equipment and products in your office and plant, with their model number, and have someone check every so often that the products you use do not represent a hazard.
For a retail environment you need a full list of all of the items you sell and have on stock, and know if they have been recalled.
If you run a day care operation, it is very important for the health and safety of the children – and in terms of your liability – that you know what physical goods and toys and snacks have been recalled.
If you run a rental car agency, you need to know what vehicles have been recalled, and whether those recall issues have been dealt with, and whether compliance has been documented! We suspect the old law enforcement saying that if something makes you look good, but wasn’t documented, it never happened.
For owners of airplanes, there are a lot of airworthiness directives that require compliance in some timely manner. As pilots we can tell you that, if there is no documentation of compliance with a mandatory AD in your logs, you may well have serious problems somewhere down the line.
Here are two sites that deal with recalls:
• US Government listing of private sector recalls for consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics, and environmental products: http://www.recalls.gov/
• FAA Airworthiness Directives