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CPSC uses an alternative approach to negotiated rulemaking which accomplishes the goal of negotiating rather than dictating rules. By statute CPSC can only issue a mandatory standard when there is no voluntary standard in place that adequately addresses the risk of injury, or when industry fails to comply with such voluntary standards. The Commission has had great success in working cooperatively with industry to develop voluntary standards. Indeed, the Commission has found that with the products it regulates, negotiating such standards can be far more efficient than rulemaking or even negotiated rulemaking.

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CPSC uses an alternative approach to negotiated rulemaking which accomplishes the goal of negotiating rather than dictating rules. By statute CPSC can only issue a mandatory standard when there is no voluntary standard in place that adequately addresses the risk of injury, or when industry fails to comply with such voluntary standards. The Commission has had great success in working cooperatively with industry to develop voluntary standards. Indeed, the Commission has found that with the products it regulates, negotiating such standards can be far more efficient than rulemaking or even negotiated rulemaking.

CPSC always attempts to work cooperatively with industry to address safety hazards. It is far more effective for CPSC and industry to work together than for the agency to dictate mandatory standards. Industry knows its own products best and obviously has considerable technical expertise. Accordingly, the Commission uses mandatory standards only as a last resort when negotiated voluntary standards and the marketplace prove ineffective.

CPSC relies extensively on the voluntary consensus process for the development of safety standards for consumer products in the United States. As much, if not more than any other federal regulatory agency, the CPSC has used the voluntary process to address safety problems since its beginning in 1973. Since this time, CPSC has worked with industry representatives to develop more than 300 voluntary product standards while promulgating less than 50 mandatory rules during this same period. This 6 to 1 ratio of voluntary to mandatory standards is impressive and illustrates that CPSC has long relied on this process to carry out its mission. The following are examples of the positive results of voluntary standards activities:

-- Chain saw injuries were reduced 48%, from 69,000 injuries to 36,000 injuries.
-- Fire deaths were reduced 30%, from 5,450 deaths to 3,800 deaths.
-- Electrocutions were reduced 62%, from 650 deaths to 250 deaths.

Since 1981, CPSC's statutes have required the agency to make two findings before it can issue a mandatory standard; first, that there is no voluntary standard in place that adequately addresses the risk of injury of concern, and second, if there is such a standard, that there is not significant conformance to that standard. Furthermore, CPSC follows OMB Circular A-119, which directs agencies to use voluntary standards whenever possible.

CPSC is extremely active in the development of voluntary safety standards in the United States. CPSC long ago established a high level staff position to coordinate voluntary standards policy activities. CPSC's Voluntary Standards Coordinator is the Chairman of the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) Government Member Council, and as such is a non-voting ANSI Board member. Commission staff sit on several councils of Underwriters' Laboratories (UL); in fact, a CPSC staffer is the first woman member of UL's Electrical Council. CPSC is a member of the ASTM F-15 Executive Committee for Consumer Products. These bodies establish domestic and international policies for the development of voluntary consensus standards. Also, CPSC staff is active on many of the U.S. code bodies (National Electric Code, National Fuel Gas Code, etc.) that establish national model codes for the safe installation of consumer products. All of these activities are heavily relied on by CPSC to ensure that adequate safety standards exist for consumer products. These non-regulatory activities represent the vast majority of the Agency's standards development activities today.

On occasion, CPSC concludes that mandatory regulations may be appropriate because of ineffective self-regulation by the marketplace. However, in these cases the CPSC staff works as closely as possible with industry to assure that the rulemaking process is as efficient and effective as possible. For example, CPSC is currently conducting a regulatory investigation on upholstered furniture. Technical staff is conducting the following work in close cooperation with industry: (1) a fire incident data study to determine the number of fires involving upholstered furniture and small open flames; (2) testing of existing furniture to small open flame conditions to evaluate current furniture performance; and, (3) surveying manufacturers to gather specific information about the upholstered furniture market. Industry has been given an opportunity to review our data collection methodology, our laboratory testing protocols, and provide input on the type of questions we ask manufacturers about the market.

There are times when industry prefers a mandatory federal standard because of the preemptive effects of CPSC's regulations over state regulation and because of the CPSC's enforcement capabilities, particularly with imported goods. A recent example of this is the CPSC's mandatory standard for child-resistant cigarette lighters. The CPSC was initially proceeding on a dual track of working on a mandatory and voluntary standard. Then industry decided to stop all work on the voluntary standard, in part because of conflicting legislation in two states to regulate this product. Just as importantly, the domestic manufacturers were very concerned that overseas manufacturers would not comply with a voluntary standard and they would therefore be placed at an economic disadvantage. Because of these considerations, the industry specifically requested a mandatory regulation.
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from U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
REGULATORY REFORM INITIATIVE, SUMMARY REPORT - JUNE 1995

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