Monday March 13, 2023
ICPHSO Celebrates 30 Years of Bringing Together Product Safety ProfessionalsBy Marc J. Schoem, ICPHSO Executive Director
The International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) kicked off its 30th Anniversary year at the recently held 2023 Annual Meeting and Training Symposium in Orlando, Florida. More than 700 attendees representing global regulators, manufacturers, importers, retailers, standards organizations, NGO’s, parent and consumer advocates, media, trade associations, test laboratories, consultants, lawyers, academia state consumer protection and health officials and more.
When the organization was founded in 1993, the twenty-four individuals attending the first meeting represented regulators, the regulated industry, and consumers. Two international representatives from Great Britain and Canada also attended the meeting. The initial two-day meeting was spirited and productive, concluding in a vote to create a new organization focused on consumer product safety.
The initial meeting grew out of discussions that took place with the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) a hundred-year-old organization whose primary focus was to bring together stakeholders in the food and drug industry to work together to ensure food and drug safety. With prompting by several high-ranking U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officials, including its long time Director of Compliance, David Schmeltzer, and its long time Director of State and Local Programs, Ross Koeser, these twenty-four individuals met to plan a new organization that would focus on consumer product safety since there was a belief, consumer products were overshadowed by AFDO’s focus on food and drug issues. With that vote to begin a new non-profit organization focused on consumer product safety, ICPHSO was born with the hope that global regulators would be able to meet with and train and network with representatives from the consumer product community.
The goal was to create an opportunity for regulators, the regulated industry, consumer and parent advocates and other stakeholders dealing with consumer product safety issues to meet, train, be educated on best practices, emerging hazards, and network so that when the regulated industry had issues or when regulators needed to deal quickly with a product safety issue, there would be an ability to quickly reach out to discuss safety issues with many different stakeholders at the same time.
Beginning in 1998, prior to the actual beginning of the ICPHSO Annual Symposium, CPSC Compliance Director David Schmeltzer held a “Compliance Workshop” to present to the attendees information on various aspects of the CPSC Compliance Program, and featured discussions around industry reporting obligations, CPSC expectations for voluntary recalls, and how compliance activities related to voluntary product safety standards. In the following years, the added-on Compliance Workshop had higher attendance than the Symposium itself, showing the need for more information on Compliance. CPSC leadership believed that providing more proactive information to all stakeholders could prevent more issues and allow staff to focus on the most significant problems affecting consumers. Over the years, the Compliance workshop expanded to include other global regulators as well as other staff from within CPSC, including its laboratory, injury surveillance office, General Counsel, field investigators and others. All with the belief that its better to work together than at cross purposes.
Over the years as ICPHSO’s annual symposium expanded and represented a more international audience, specific regulatory issues affecting various parts of the world were presented in an effort to provide more global information. ICPHSO has helped close the gap between global regulators and their regulated industries. ICPHSO has brought consumer and parent advocates to the Symposium to better ensure all voices within the stakeholder community are present and heard. The same efforts have also been directed to include academia, health officials and as new legislation passes affecting consumer product safety, addressing these issues head on to provide affected stakeholders an opportunity to better understand and be prepared to meet global regulatory requirements.
To help focus students on product safety, we also launched our Student Mentorship Program. In its second year, this program included eleven students from eight different colleges and universities at our 2023 Annual Symposium. Students were paired with mentors in an effort to provide product safety training and education and to meet the consumer product safety community of product safety compliance professionals. Through the Student Mentorship Program, we hope to show students the potential for a rewarding career path and build connections in the consumer product safety community.
ICPHSO has remained true to its original mission by not lobbying or taking sides on specific product safety issues, but rather providing opportunities for affected stakeholders to work together to discuss, to be trained and educated and to network with others dealing with the same issues. Competitors put aside their differences to work on solutions to better ensure consumers are obtaining the safest products possible. Regulators attending ICPHSO have opportunities to talk to all stakeholders in one forum to better understand issues from their perspectives.
In addition to its Annual Symposium at the end of February, ICPHSO also holds a one-day North America Product Safety Training Workshop in various cities throughout North America. Previous Workshops have been held in St. Louis, Chicago, IL, Toronto, Atlanta, GA, Los Angeles, CA, Minneapolis, MN, Seattle, WA, Paramus, NJ. Generally, the one-day workshop is hosted by a member organization. On June 27, 2023, we will be in Boston, MA, hosted by Wayfair.
A two-day International Symposium is held in a different country. Every two years, ICPHSO collaborates with the European Commission during its International Product Safety Week in Brussels, Belgium. ICPHSO has held International Symposiums in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, Japan, China, Australia, Denmark, and Ireland. In 2023, we will hold our International Symposium in Almhult, Sweden and be hosted by IKEA.
The founders' vision of ICPHSO continues 30 years later as the only organization bringing together the consumer product safety community in an effort to advance consumer product safety among all stakeholders on a global basis to promote safer consumer products around the world.