The effects on CPSC's productivity from the first two weeks of the government shutdown likely were mitigated by the timing. With two scheduled holidays anyway – Christmas and New Years – plus staffers' other likely planned holiday-related vacations, it probably is safe to say that tasks that would have gotten done if CPSC were open probably were fewer than for a normal two-week span. However, as the closure continues, effects will compound.
The following list is an attempt to give a sense of what activities are being neglected due to the work ban. It should not be taken as an exact indicator. Projects do not progress uniformly throughout a year, so, for example, weekly averages cannot be precise. Also, resources can get redirected meaning lulls and surges rather than steady advancements. Moreover, many tasks (like recalls) are reactive, so projects can similarly ebb and flow beyond agency control.
The list is based on a review of resources like the agency's strategic plans, annual reports, regulatory agendas, and performance/accountability reports as well as PSL back issues.
- Recalls: In FY2017-FY2018, CPSC averaged 323 recalls per year. That puts the weekly average of recalls roughly at six. Keep in mind that the number refers to announcements only. It does not include behind-the-scenes tasks like investigations, analysis, and negotiations. Those also are stalled – except for matters rising to "substantial and immediate threats to human safety" (PSL, 12/24/18).
- Letters of Advice: CPSC issues in the vicinity of 2,000 letters of advice annually to importers and manufacturers for a very rough weekly average of somewhere in the 30s. These documents tell companies that their products likely are violative and list CPSC's desired corrections, ranging from fixing future production runs to recalls and seizures.
- Fines and Settlements: CPSC announced payments from five companies in FY2018 and seven in FY2017. It has reported just one during the first quarter of FY2019, and agency trends indicate a slowdown in such actions. Beyond settlements, agency legal staffers work with the Justice Department on a handful of other cases a year.
- Imports: CPSC oversaw screening of some 41,000 products in FY2018, a weekly average of about 788.
- Inspections: CPSC oversaw about 3,000 establishment inspections in FY2017, a weekly average near 58.
- Voluntary Standards: CPSC staffers in FY2018 participated in 77 committees at standards development organizations. The panels rely on CPSC data as well as on staffers' input and expertise to help ensure that resulting provisions will satisfy the commission, which has the power to create mandatory rules if deeming the voluntary ones to be insufficient. Although the non-government panel members would be free to meet, discussion would be limited without CPSC. Additionally, agency personnel lead four panels and have voting power on six.
- Rulemakings: The most recent regulatory agenda showed 18 active rulemaking projects. Seven were in in the pre-rule stage, meaning staff had not yet issued draft NPRs. Four were in the proposed rule state, meaning they were in the comment, analysis, or revision stages. Seven were in the final rule state, meaning they were at least at a point of staffers working on draft final rules.
- Data Collection: CPSC each year collects and crunches hundreds of thousands of NEISS reports and gets tens of thousands of calls to its Hotline. It also sees at least thousands each of incident reports, death certificates, and posts on Saferproducts.gov. Although some data collection still might be occurring – especially where automated or done by non-CPSCers – agency staff could have a huge backlog to otherwise process once they return.
- Reports and Research: CPSC engineering, human factors, and other staff regularly look at hazard trends and potential safety solutions, each year issuing dozens of reports that drive work on regulations, standards, and education. Additionally, field staffers conduct hundreds of in-depth investigations into particular hazards or products.
- Freedom of Information: The agency receives a rough annual average of 600 FoIA requests, about 12 per week. Staff not only must handle the typical tasks of collection, reviews/redaction and appeals, they also must oversee the extra steps CPSC must take under its 6(b) mandates.
- International Partners: CPSC could not interact with its international counterparts on issues like joint North American recalls, harmonization, and education.
- Federal Partners: CPSC interacts with its sister agencies on cross-jurisdictional hazards and matters of mutual interest like the internet of things, nanotechnology, animal testing, fires, carbon monoxide, and many more.
- State Partners: CPSC works with its state-level counterparts, coordinating joint enforcement and surveillance activities, providing technical assistance, and cooperating in industry training and consumer education.
- Meetings and Speeches: Both commissioners and staffers regularly meet with stakeholders or speak before them to increase consensus and understanding of CPSC topics. Not only are all such events canceled during a shutdown, all preparation and scheduling stops too. It is unclear how many meetings are not occurring that would have. CPSC's public calendar shows just five events for January, but the number reflects the status at the shutdown almost 10 days before the month began. Most notices appear the week or two before meetings. For comparison, recent months had in the range of 50-75 meetings.