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Usability in Civic Life: Government & Industry Day

Remarks by Ann Brown at the Government/Industry Executive Breakfast


Remarks by Ann Brown
Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Before the Usability Professionals' Association
Government/Industry Executive Breakfast
Washington, D.C.
June 23, 1998

In remarks made by Chairman Brown at the UPA Executive Breakfast, she cited two cases where the CPSC worked to make products safer - and more user- friendly - for consumers.

Adult Friendly Child-Resistant Packaging (Scope and Aleve Packaging Examples)
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) administers the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA). The CPSC protects children from poisoning with household chemicals and drugs by requiring child-resistant packaging. Twenty-six different substances, including most prescription drugs, require child-resistant packaging. The CPSC estimates that over 800 children's lives have been saved from accidental poisoning from aspirin and other drugs.

While the PPPA has been very successful, children were being poisoned because adults, especially seniors, could not use child-resistant packaging properly. They were leaving the caps off, transferring the contents to other non-child- resistant containers or leaving the pills loose with no container at all.

In order to make packaging easier for all adults, yet maintain a high child- resistance, the CPSC wanted to change the testing protocols to include people age 50-70 years, instead of the 18-45 year-olds who were being tested. However, to do that the CPSC had to show that it was technically possible to produce packaging that was both "adult friendly" and child-resistant. The CPSC relied on companies like Rexam and Proctor & Gamble to develop packaging that met both requirements. The Chairman awarded her commendation to both of these companies for their packaging achievements.

The CPSC finalized the rule that requires child-resistant packaging to be adult friendly as well as child-resistant. Child-resistant packaging made after January 1998 must meet these new requirements. Some manufacturers are meeting the new requirements of being adult friendly and child-resistant by developing new packaging that is cognitive rather than strength-based.

Drawstrings On Children's Clothing
Since 1985, CPSC is aware of 20 deaths and 43 nonfatal incidents to young children caused by drawstring entanglement. Playground slides were involved in over half of the incidents.

CPSC Chairman Ann Brown forged a partnership with Thelma Sibley, whose daughter, Nancy, strangled when the drawstring of her jacket caught on a playground slide. Working together, Ann Brown and Thelma Sibley brought together representatives from leading manufacturers of children's clothing and presented them with the problem. In just four months, the manufacturers voluntarily agreed to remove neck and hood drawstrings from jackets and sweatshirts - some 20 million children's garments.

Today, consumers would be hard-pressed to find a neck or hood drawstring on children's clothing. To accomplish this, CPSC did not turn to regulation, but rather worked voluntarily with companies to make children's clothing safer. This is an example of how designing safety in a product can still maintain optimum usability.

For further information, please contact Walt Sanders, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (301/504-0213).

Biography of Ann Brown
Ann Brown was sworn in as Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on March 10, 1994. She was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Commissioner and the seventh Chairman of the CPSC.

As Chairman, Mrs. Brown's goal has been to keep families -- especially children -- safe in their homes. She has frequently cited the equal responsibility of consumers, industry and the CPSC in promoting consumer safety.

Chairman Brown believes that voluntary cooperation with industry is often the fastest and most effective means of addressing safety concerns. Mrs. Brown underscored her belief in the importance of safety to industry by establishing the Chairman's Commendation to recognize outstanding contributions to safety. In addition, she has sponsored three major conferences with industry: "Safety Sells," global harmonization of safety standards and working with small business.

Her actions on behalf of children earned Chairman Brown the "Champion of Safe Kids Award" from the National Safe Kids Campaign, the "Humanitarian of the Year" award from the Danny Foundation, and the "Clarion Award" from the National Parents Day Coalition. In 1995, Chairman Brown received the "Government Communicator of the Year Award," and in 1996, the Golden Trumpet Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago. IN 1996 she also received the Margaret Dana Award for excellence in voluntary standards development from ASTM.

Her leadership of agency efforts to provide better customer service has been honored by four awards for reinventing government from Vice President Al Gore. The awards commended the CPSC for its improved Hotline, for an innovative telecommuting program, for its work to simplify government telephone Blue Pages listings, and for its Fast-Track Product Recall Program, which speeds up the recall of defective products. The Fast-Track Program has also been named a semifinalist in the Innovations in American Government Program for the Ford Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School.

For more than two decades prior to her appointment, Mrs. Brown was a consumer advocate. She served as vice president of the Consumer Federation of America for nearly 15 years, and was chairman of the board of the consumer advocacy group Public Voice from 1983 to 1994. In 1989, she was named "Washingtonian of the Year" by Washingtonian magazine.

Mrs. Brown attended Smith College from 1955 to 1958 and received a B.A. in 1959 from The George Washington University. She has been married since 1960 to attorney and former Harvard Business School professor Donald Brown. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.

 

 

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