House equity

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In late spring, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hosted a roundtable for interested parties to discuss the equity action plan it released on January 20, 2022.1 In hosting the public forum, CPSC sought to “give the public an opportunity to discuss steps the agency can take to better address existing racial disparities in rates of injury and death from certain consumer products.” .2 CPSC used the roundtable to solicit first impressions and feedback on its equity action plan, discuss how to reach underserved communities, communication and education strategies, and policy changes. potential policies with interested parties.

Industry participants should pay particular attention to the development of equity policies and initiatives of CPSC and other federal agencies, especially as one area of ​​focus is enforcement and targeted surveys. Any actions taken by these agencies to implement their equity action plans are likely to affect how manufacturers, distributors and retailers interact with consumers from underserved populations and could result in new risks of litigation.

Executive Order 13985

On January 20, 2021, the President signed Executive Order 13985, Promoting Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.3 The executive order directs the federal government to pursue “a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” .4

To achieve this comprehensive approach, the executive order empowers the White House Domestic Policy Council to coordinate efforts within the federal government and to ensure that these efforts are carried out in partnership with the directors of the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.5 The executive order directs the creation of an Interagency Fair Data Working Group to gather the data needed to measure and advance fairness.6 The executive order also directs the director of the Office of Management and Budget to work with agency heads to “investigate methods to assess whether agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation.” of all eligible persons”.seven Such a study may include the implementation of pilot programs to test model evaluation tools.8

The CPSC Equity Action Plan

In response to Executive Order 13985, CPSC’s Equity Action Plan summarizes its early equity-related accomplishments and identifies four barriers to achieving more equitable public health outcomes from a patient safety perspective. outputs: 1) raising awareness to address higher injury rates among Black Americans, 2) improving data quality, 3) standards and research, and 4) enforcement and targeted surveys.

The executive summary of the plan notes that the agency’s injury statistics already show racial disparities in injury and death rates from carbon monoxide poisoning, home fires and pool drownings among families. minority.9 As such, the plan outlines the agency’s efforts to identify further disparities with respect to other hazards and to implement agency-wide training, public education, data improvements , personnel changes, standards development, research projects and, what is most important for the industry, targeted application and investigative acts.ten

With respect to targeted enforcement and investigations, the plan outlines CPSC’s intention to use census data by zip code to monitor targeted areas, collecting samples of potentially unsafe consumer products and removing banned or recalled products.11 The CPSC also notes efforts to target “low-value, high-risk” imported products that are likely to be sold in areas with underserved populations.12 The stated objective of these actions is to remove non-compliant and illegal products from the market, thereby reducing injuries among at-risk populations.13

CPSC is one of more than 90 federal agencies that have submitted equity action plans in response to Executive Order 13985.14 Other independent agencies that voluntarily participated include the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Transportation Safety Board and Occupational Safety and Heath Review Commission.15 Similar to the CPSC, these agency plans summarize equity-related achievements and identify three to five barriers to equitable outcomes, proposing actions to overcome those barriers. Many of these plans propose targeted enforcement and investigations.

Equity action plans will have an impact

Inter-agency collaboration and coordination is likely to increase as agencies like CPSC work to implement their respective action plans. With multiple agencies focused on the same or similar goals, multiple regulators could be knocking on the same doors. Targeted enforcement actions and investigations also come with the risk of litigation.

At a minimum, industry participants should know which agencies have jurisdiction over various aspects of their business. To stay better informed, industry participants need to pay attention to and participate in the conversations these agencies are orchestrating and understand the practical implications of the equity initiatives these agencies ultimately decide to undertake based on these conversations. For example, while CPSC’s May 25 roundtable focused largely on communication and education strategies for underserved communities, participant Charon McNabb — co-founder of the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association — said accountability failing consumer products, particularly appliances, should fall on those who design, manufacture and sell the products, not on the consumers. Other participants echoed this sentiment and encouraged the agency to encourage and monitor the modernization of security technologies. So while the CPSC Equity Action Plan will predictably lead to changes in communication and education strategies, it may also produce results that the unwary did not expect.