Better plans mean fewer shovels

What is the saying, “when you’re in a hole, stop digging”? It’s a waste of energy and in this latest example, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

Last August the majority over read the CPSIA when they considered the general wearing apparel rule to be a children’s product safety rule requiring third party testing. I voted against that approach because the general wearing apparel standard provides the same level of protection to everyone and does not differentiate children’s wearing apparel from that of adults.

Nonetheless, the majority ‘dug a big hole’ and voted to require third party testing to the general wearing apparel flammability regulations for fabrics that could find their way to be used in children’s garments. Then there was more digging in the hole. At that time, we also issued laboratory accreditation requirements with the third party testing requirement starting 90 days thereafter. Apparently, our action resulted in the need to do redundant testing on fabrics that were already tested prior to when our requirements went into effect. More dirt flying out of the hole.

The industry asked for, and today we granted, a one year grandfathering of testing so that fabrics that were tested in an approved lab up to one year before the requirements went into effect will be deemed to have been tested in accordance with our requirements. This is a good thing though we never should have gotten this deep in the hole in the first place.

We found that our action last August requiring this testing, while not leading to any appreciable increase in safety, led to redundant testing. Therefore we were called upon to correct a problem that should never have come up. While I am glad to see my colleagues step up and take this corrective action, I believe that a more appropriate reading of the statute would have prevented it from the start. (see my statement)

We need to be better stewards of public resources. The reality is that our resources are limited and probably will be reduced in the future. Yet we have spent valuable agency staff time and effort crafting a solution needed for a problem of our own making—a clear example of how not to regulate.

We need to keep this lesson in mind before we dig the next hole.

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