CPSC to Require Periodic Audits of Accredited Third-party Testers
Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) added another step to the process of product safety certification. Published in the Federal Register on May 24, 2012, the CPSC issued a final rule requiring third-party agencies to undergo periodic audits to ensure they meet the commission's high standards for accreditation.
The rule, "Audit Requirements for Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies," was originally proposed in August 2009 for implementation with the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), as amended by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). CPSIA requires manufacturers, importers or private labelers issue a certification ensuring any applicable products have been certified as compliant by an accredited third-party testing agency; last week's final rule will require those third-party operations be periodically evaluated to maintain their accredited status. The audit rule becomes effective on July 23, 2012.
Several bodies affected by the rule, including manufacturers as well as third-party certifiers, raised objections after the 2009 proposal. Costs for auditing and re-accreditation, provisions creating an "accreditation body" and questions about compliance with international regulations were all brought to the CPSC's attention. Several of those questions, and the commission's responses, can be viewed in the final rule article in the Federal Register.
One side effect of concerned raised by commenters was the creation of a related proposed rule, "Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies." This new rule, which is open for a comment period until August 7, 2012, will establish requirements for accreditation of assessment bodies testing children's products. Interested parties may submit comments on the proposed rule on the Federal Register's website.
As accreditation for third-party certifiers becomes more difficult, compliance for the promotional products industry is bound to become an even larger issue. Supplier and distributors alike are culpable under CPSIA, as its provisions apply to both manufacturers (including importers) and private labelers. Further, because of the customizable nature of promotional products and the broad interpretation of "children's products," most items sold by suppliers and distributors can fall under the law's purview. Increased difficulties for accreditation for third-party agencies could become increased testing costs for industry members or longer waits for certification as accreditation becomes more scarce.
Read more about the CPSC's proposed accreditation requirements on the Federal Register's website. Questions and concerns about how the proposal could affect your business can be sent to the commission here through regulations.gov.