As my first anniversary of becoming a Commissioner at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) quickly approaches, it is the perfect time to write about what I have come to appreciate as one of our agency’s biggest assets: DATA.
As many of you already know, the CPSC was formed by Congress in 1972 as a small, independent agency charged with a large public health safety mission: to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from consumer products. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of more than 10,000 consumer products—such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals—has contributed substantially to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products during the past 40 years.
Within days of being sworn in to my new position, I started meeting with various groups that had issues before the agency, including consumer groups, trade associations, voluntary rules committees, manufacturers, and chemical companies. Multiple times each week, I would hear arguments either for or against more consumer safety rules, standards or initiatives. Inevitably, the data cited in support of the arguments were gathered by the CPSC.
Additionally, I learned that most of our work here at the CPSC begins with an analysis of our data on consumer product-related incidents, injuries and deaths. I quickly realized how vital our data are to virtually all decision-making concerning product safety in this country and in many others. Once I fully realized how critical our data were, I started learning everything I could about how we obtain it in an effort to ascertain whether we could make it better.
The CPSC collects consumer product-related incident data in a number of ways. The CPSC’s statistical data are collected through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Non-statistical or anecdotal data are collected in a few different ways. I am writing today to focus on improving our anecdotal data.
The sources of our anecdotal data have for many years included news media reports, consumer complaints to the CPSC Hotline, a limited number of death certificates, trade information, and the Medical Examiners and Coroners Alert Project (MECAP)
Since May 2011, we also have had a website, Saferproducts.gov, the public can use to submit reports of harm or risk of harm related to the use of consumer products or substances within CPSC’s jurisdiction (“Reports”). Saferproducts.gov is now in its fourth year and it has become increasingly easy to use. To date, we have received approximately 20,000 Reports through Saferproducts.gov, primarily from consumers. CPSC staff begins their analysis of this data immediately upon receipt to identify potential emerging hazards.
As impressive as this number of Reports is, we want to do so much better, particularly with groups who have information about product-related injuries or deaths that are not being reported to the CPSC, such as consumer groups, health-care and child-care professionals, public safety and government officials, lawyers, and businesses.
With a few simple clicks, you may log onto Saferproducts.gov and report an injury or death related to a product. By doing so, you could assist the CPSC in determining how to prevent such an incident, injury or death from occurring again in the future.
I want to make a special plea to encourage doctors, nurses, hospitals, urgent-care providers, and other medical professionals and health-care providers to report to Saferproducts.gov. You are on the front lines when people are injured by consumer products and we need to hear from you.
I also strongly urge manufacturers, importers and private labelers to visit and register on the CPSC’s Business Portal at https://www.saferproducts.gov/CPSRMSPublic/Industry/Home.aspx. It is the online home for businesses to interact with the CPSC. Through the portal, businesses may review and comment on consumer product safety reports submitted to Saferproducts.gov and report potentially unsafe products to the CPSC. The CPSC relies on businesses to assist in providing data about potentially unsafe products and product defects to ensure consumers’ safety.
So you are aware, as long as Reports contain certain minimum information required by law and the submitter consents, the Reports are publicly searchable approximately fifteen business days after a Report is submitted to the CPSC allowing anyone to use the database to search for similar injury Reports.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who has reported consumer product-related incidents to the CPSC in the past. Whether you are a participating NEISS emergency department, an injured consumer or a concerned pediatrician, your reports are the foundation for the excellent work done by the CPSC to keep the public safe. Thank you!
Reporting data is easy!
Go to www.Saferproducts.gov and fill in the electronic form online. The electronic form will take only a few minutes to complete. You will be given the opportunity to register with CPSC when you begin. If you register, you will be able to save your electronic form so you may come back and complete it any time within the next 30 days.
 The NEISS was created over 30 years ago by CPSC epidemiologists. It is comprised of approximately 100 hospital emergency departments specifically selected to allow statistical extrapolation of consumer product-related injuries to the national level and assess injuries over time. The NEISS collects approximately 400,000 product-related injury reports annually from participating hospitals that represent a national estimate of over 14 million product-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments. The NEISS data are also publicly-available and searchable on the CPSC’s website at https://www.cpsc.gov/en/Research--Statistics/NEISS-Injury-Data/.
 1-800-638-2772 or 1-301-595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired.
 The disclosure of protected health information to a public health authority is a permitted disclosure under the regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information at 45 CFR 164.502(a)(1)(vi) in connection with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Therefore, because the CPSC is a public health authority as explained in 45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i), medical professionals are permitted to report to www.Saferproducts.gov.