What to do when safety measures jeopardise safety

What to do when safety measures jeopardise safety

Posted: by Stericycle on Aug 03, 2019

We’re quite used to seeing products withdrawn from the market because something has been found in their manufacturing that makes them unsafe, but what should the market do when a product could be unsafe because of efforts to reduce risk of harm?

That very situation arose recently when the UK Government’s Environment Audit Committee (EAC) raised the alarm over the presence of fire retardant chemicals required in items such as child’s mattresses, sofas and other household items.

These chemicals, which certain products were doused in after the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 act was introduced, have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, with some of the flame retardant chemicals used deemed to be of ‘very high concern’ by scientists.

And while such chemicals can inhibit fire, when burned they produce toxic smoke that can, when inhaled, cause serious illnesses or even death. Reports of the ‘Grenfell cough’ have also arisen, prompting increased fears over the chemicals used in everyday items.

The scrutiny of these substances by the EAC is to be welcomed, and comes on the back of several product recalls in recent months of children’s toys – most notably slime – contaminated with too high levels of boron, which can have a permanent impact on reproductive organs.

Perhaps we are only now coming to grips with exactly how some of these chemicals interact with the body, but when it comes to keeping us safe, we have to ask what the risk is versus the reward.

As far as manufacturers are concerned, safety regulations have to be met if you are to have your products sold in any particular marketplace. While the UK’s fire safety regulations are currently amongst the most stringent in the world – the unintended consequences of this could see several products permanently recalled from the market.

In these circumstances, manufacturers cannot put an indefinite pause on production while legislators make up their minds. However, from a consumer’s perspective, they would expect as quick a response from the authorities as the authorities would expect of a manufacturer.

Either way, for manufacturers and retailers alike, it is sensible to prepare for a change in the law – and the possibility of a rapid recall caused by no fault of their own.