Recalls

Amid a spate of recent recalls, how can you make sure it doesn’t happen to you?

By Tina Irgang

This month has seen a flurry of recalls and fatal accidents involving consumer products, including the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin, the first deadly crash involving a self-driving car, and a recall of IKEA dressers that were prone to tipping over onto small children. Are you ticking all the boxes to make sure your product isn’t the next one in the headlines?

On June 19, Yelchin, a young actor best known for playing Chekov in the new Star Trek movie franchise, was crushed by his Jeep Grand Cherokee when it rolled backward down a driveway. The accident has been traced to an issue with the car’s gearshift, which was first discovered by regulators last summer but has yet to be fixed by Fiat Chrysler, which makes the Grand Cherokee, according to The New York Times.

On June 29, IKEA announced it was voluntarily recalling 29 million chests and dressers, following the deaths of at least six toddlers who had been crushed under them, according to ABC News. Arguably, the recall is too little too late, as reports of young children being killed or injured by IKEA dressers go back to at least 1989, ABC adds. Three deaths occurred within the past two years alone, according to The Washington Post.

On June 30, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it was launching an investigation after the driver of a Tesla Model S Sedan was killed in an accident that happened while the car was in self-driving mode.

This week, news of additional recalls emerged, involving hoverboards prone to catching on fire and E.coli in General Mills flour.

Put your focus on product safety

While it seems as though there has been a particularly dramatic spike in recalls recently, they have been on the increase for several years. It’s “the result of a combination of greater oversight by regulators, better testing procedures and the use of social media where consumers can quickly point out and discuss problems with other people,” says USA Today.

Modular manufacturing of product components and the risk of software glitches also have been contributing factors to a rising number of recalls, according to Mashable.

Given how quickly news about product safety problems (or even just potential problems) spreads through social media, how can you ensure your product isn’t the one engulfed in the next scandal?

  • Identify potential risks during the design stage. That includes considering possible consumer uses (and misuses) of the product, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) best practices. If you identify a risk, work to eliminate or at least warn users against it. In your product specifications, include details regarding safety and compliance, especially if you manufacture children’s products.
  • Put a strategy in place in case a recall does happen. “Any business can unexpectedly face a product recall. If one of your products has been recalled, or your business recalls it voluntarily, a skilled management of the process will have much to do with the final impact on the bottom line, as well as your business reputation. Many businesses fail to put a recall strategy in place, such as planning the reverse logistics involved in getting the product off the market,” notes the Virginia Law & Business Review.
  • Review consumer feedback about your product on a regular basis, including customer service calls, online reviews and feedback collected by the searchable SaferProducts.gov database, suggests the CPSC.
  • Don’t neglect safety in the supply chain. In your contracts with suppliers, include provisions that specify material usage. Spot-check products for ongoing compliance with your safety requirements, CPSC advises.
  • Track your products through mock recalls. “Such tests can be done in-house or with the help of trusted customers by selecting a product and tracking it from materials to store shelves. You should also trace a lot of products and verify that communications channels are working properly,” says Entrepreneur.

Tina Irgang is the managing editor of SmartCEO magazine and SmartCEO.com. Contact her at tina@smartceo.com.