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Incorporating Product Recalls into Risk Planning

Product recalls seem to be growing more prevalent. Everywhere you turn, there are stories of manufacturers recalling toys, food or cars. And while it might not seem like it, attention to product recalls is part of an effective risk management plan, especially for the glass industry.

First, some general legal background on recalls: When a product is unsafe, hazardous or defective, most product manufacturers consider a recall. The purpose of the recall is to address the potential for a product to cause harm, before it does so.

Manufacturers can, and often do, publish safety notices or initiate voluntary recalls to address conditions they have identified. Involuntarily recalls can also be mandated through a complex regulatory structure that exists at federal and state levels of government. Some of the more familiar include the NTSB recalling cars, the EPA recalling pesticides or other environmentally harmful substances, or the Coast Guard addressing boats and protective marine devices. See for more information.

The legal effect of product recalls is mixed, whether voluntary or involuntary. Any product recall is an acknowledgement that a product might be lessthan- perfect, and this often produces litigation. Even so, a properly managed recall with an effective cure can shield litigation, even class-action lawsuits. For example, in the AquaDots Product Liability Litigation case, the court found a toy company’s recall plan, which included nationwide notice and direct compensation, as a legal shield to a later class action lawsuit.

Specific areas to monitor

Regardless of how a recall comes about or its legal effect, glass companies should stay current with manufacturer safety notices and product recalls to ensure the safety of their workers and quality of their work. Consider the impact that the following recalls could have on risk planning:

Recalls of personal protective equipment. As essential items for worker safety, PPE notices and recalls should be regularly monitored to help ensure all employees are using the most appropriate equipment. Confirming recalls with name-brand suppliers is key. Take 3M’s 2014 lifeline recall, for example. Manufacturers and suppliers are good sources for this information, as they often take the positive step of notifying the market of conditions that might compromise safety. In 2014, for example, MSA issued an inspection notice for Yoke Snaphooks that had potential issues with rivets.

Work materials and hardware notices. Seemingly simple items can present large safety risks that should not be ignored. For example, industry statements to check for micro-cracking near fiberglass ladder rungs, or specific recalls for lift equipment like Genie’s 2012 safety notice for oscillating axles on lifts, are two examples where manufacturers advised the market of the potential for issues. Such notices should not be ignored.

Materials incorporated into finished work. Less prevalent, but equally important, is ensuring the materials incorporated into finished work are not subject to recall or other safety notices. Glass, paints, sealants, gaskets and even aluminum are complex recipes in their own right. If one of the recipe’s components is out of tolerance, it can impact the entire finished product. As a result, it is important to stay current with these material manufacturers.

Plan of action

Incorporating recalls into risk planning can involve many steps, but here are three suggestions: First, commit to staying current with industry recalls and supplier notices. Manufacturers and suppliers take recalls very seriously; so should glass companies. Any potential for harm to employees or others on a jobsite should be considered.

Second, be prepared. Keep detailed information on equipment and jobsite materials so that when a recall or safety notice appears, you do not need to scramble to identify what equipment or materials are in use. It is a small, up-front step that can ultimately save time and ensure compliance.

Finally, follow the recommendations and be proactive in your response. Many recalls or notices will include specific steps or suggestions; follow these. Rely on the expertise of the manufacturer or supplier. Do not forget to implement the recommendation. Sometimes parts must be replaced. Sometimes a specific investigation is required. Other times, these notices might mean consulting with lawyers who know the industry. Whatever the approach, following recalls or notice recommendations—and documenting that you have done so—can prove to be key risk avoidance steps.


Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is a member of The Gary Law Group, a Portland-based firm specializing in legal and risk issues facing manufacturers of glazing products. He can be reached at