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Businesses Pained By Lead Tests

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Everybody knows lead is dangerous. A heightened awareness and avoidance of products like lead paint is vital to public safety. Unfortunately for smaller companies, expensive new regulations for independent testing may force many to go out of business.

Pretty much everyone agrees that the safety of children must be the priority in the production of goods. This is particularly true with items such as toys, supplies, and utensils. In the last decade, lead paint recalls have impacted many retail toy companies. The effects from the new regulations, as seen in one article, weigh heavily when attempting to keep a business thriving:

Small batch toy makers, many of whom make old-fashioned wood and sustainable products, say the testing requirements—which can cost thousands of dollars—are unaffordable. At Etsy.com, a Website where entrepreneurs can sell their handmade items, many expect the new law to put them out of business. Also ensnared are companies that make products like bikes or children’s books. Because they aren’t toy companies, many were caught by surprise when it became clear the law would apply to them. The only lead that can be found on children’s bikes is on the tire, where it poses no risk to a child not in the daily habit of licking the wheels. And while children’s books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it.

Responding to the uproar, CPSC has issued a rule-making notice that would exempt natural materials from having to be certified as lead-free — but it will need to go further to avoid an economic trainwreck in February. The real responsibility lies with Congress, which rushed through “kid-friendly” crowd-pleaser legislation without considering the consequences. Despite warnings from small businesses, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush and California’s Henry Waxman pushed provisions that now require pulling products from the shelf. Mr. Waxman demanded lead standards without allowing compliance to phase in.

Now even their allies are skittering away from strict enforcement, fearing the looming fiasco could force Congress to amend the bill. Last week, consumer groups that once flogged the law, including Public Citizen, Kids in Danger, and the Naderite U.S. Public Interest Research Group, wrote a letter urging the CPSC to “take the initiative . . . by providing prompt, common-sense, and explicit interpretations regarding exemptions to CPSIA.” Now they tell us.

Protesters

© Flickr user cursedthing

This unfortunate situation is a clear example of the law of unintended consequences; whereas important regulations imposed to benefit one such area, unknowingly bring negative effects in another. In business, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a proposal, dramatic change in one area is likely to have wide-reaching impacts. The fact is, change is not only hard because it requires work to start the process, but control to guide the outcome to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the whole picture. But despite the fact that it’s difficult, it’s of the utmost importance. If there are unintended consequences that aren’t foreseen, the impact could be hugely negative, oftentimes outweighing the positive impacts that the original decision was made to achieve.

Before you begin to comply with new regulations or pursue a major initiative at your company, consider a smaller investment in business consulting from AccelaWork. We can help your organization make improvements to process and workflow that may help reduce the need for sweeping changes or even mitigate the effect of market and government forces. Efficient, satisfied workers have more time and energy to face larger challenges and think strategically. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

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