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U.S. Government Regulation and Product Safety Case Study

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Updated: Dec 8th, 2019

Introduction

Regulation is a formal means of economic management by the government. The key goal of government regulations is to eliminate abuses and to control conduct such that all key players act in a reasonable manner.

All this is aimed at enhancing the quality of life for society by ensuring that businesses do not put their own interests over the interest of the society.

Without regulation, some individuals might exploit the environment and make substandard products in order to maximize their profits even if this will be detrimental to the common good.

The United States government makes use of laws and regulations to protect the health and safety of its citizens.

This paper will perform an analysis of the ways in which the government regulates product safety and also recommend how regulatory approaches by the NHTSA can be improved.

How the Government Regulates Product Safety

The government makes use of a number of agencies to regulate product safety in the country. The Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC regulates the safety of the vast number of consumer products (Widman, 2010).

The CPSC publicizes mandatory safety standards through issuing notices to the relevant industries. The government also sets the acceptable levels for toxin use.

For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets a limit on the pesticide use and all agricultural products have to be below a certain pesticide tolerance.

Such a regulation ensures that consumer health is safeguarded since farmers are prevented from delivering harmful products to customers.

One of the roles played by regulatory agencies is to come up with rules which govern the conduct of businesses in particular situations. These rules articulate the acceptable standards and highlight what would be unacceptable (Popat, 2010).

The proceedings to be taken in the event that the laws are violated are also stated. The government makes use of researchers and scientists in particular areas to come up with standards.

These experts study the industries or problems and then come up with a set of standards that businesses must follow.

The regulatory position taken by the governmental agencies such as the FDA and the NHTSA rely on scientific authorities. Through thorough research and testing, the agencies ensure that new products being introduced into the market do not pose any danger to the population.

Scientific authorities for the FDA ensure that food safety risks that may be present as a result of new toxins and allergens are not present in food (Widman, 2010). The agency first publishes an advanced notice of the proposed safety standards.

This proposal is accompanied by a list of analysis and findings that justify the proposal. Interested persons who are mostly members of the industry affected by the proposed safety standard then make comments or objection to the new standard.

Final findings which include the research and public opinion are published and a judicial review of the new safety standard is made (Widman, 2010).

If the standard is deemed to be necessary, reasonable and fair, it becomes mandatory and is applicable to the particular industry.

The government also imposes standards that are meant to protect consumers. For example, the government imposed an improved roof crush standard that increases the amount of force that a car roof can withstand in the event of a rollover crash.

This standard will reduce roof-crush injuries and hence make vehicles safer for consumers in the US. Kelly (2010) notes that such regulations are opposed by many auto companies since they increase the cost of production hence reduce the profit margin of the company.

Government imposition is therefore needed for the auto companies to put user interest in front of their profit interests.

The government also imposes strict liability for defective designs and these forces manufacturers to make sure that their designs are of a sound nature in order to avoid incurring penalties.

Regulatory bodies also engage the public in matters of interest to them. They inform customers of matters of interest such as hazardous material in products they own or dangers they might pose.

For example, the CPSC informed buyers of the lead paint danger that existed in some toys. The NHTSA notified customers of the danger of sudden unintended acceleration that several Toyota models suffered from (Popat, 2010).

The government checks to ensure that manufacturers provide the correct information to the consumers. This is an important aspect since companies are likely to over estimate the value of their products in order to attract more customers.

Since consumers are unlikely to discover this deception, they might end up being provided with products that are of low standard without their knowledge.

Companies are also required to reveal information about dangers that their products might pose to the user. The Consumer Product Safety Act obligates businesses to put up warnings on products regarding their dangers.

The FDA also requires a pre-market review of the safety of new food products and drugs. Popat (2010) asserts that this is very important since if the safety of foods and drugs is compromised and they are released to the market, significant human life losses may occur.

The FDA also has a strict ban on false therapeutic claims for medicines and the government’s enforcement powers for this are great.

The government is also empowered to seize adulterated goods which refer to goods that are of a damaged or inferior nature and which might be injurious to the health of people (Popat, 2010).

Improving Regulatory Approaches

While the regulatory approach of the US government has its strengths, it can be improved in a number of ways. For example, the recent toy recalls in the US were blamed on the shifting of manufacturing overseas.

While the CPSC was able to adequately monitor the level of safety in manufacturers at home, it could not do the same with manufacturing plants that were based in other countries (Popat, 2010).

As more manufacturers shift overseas, US importers will be forced to increasingly rely on the test results from foreign suppliers. Foreign suppliers cannot be relied upon to engage in the rigorous long established testing standards and procedures of the US.

This problem can be resolved by demanding regular inspections by US officers on goods manufactured abroad. This will make sure that the products comply with the US safety standards.

There have to be mechanism in place to ensure that companies which violate regulations are severely punished.

The United State has over the recent decades slipped from its position of leadership in road safety. While the government promised to enhance vehicle safety regulation, this has not been the case and the number of road crash injuries has risen.

Some of the problems currently faced by the vehicle industry are the result of the “free market” ideology which was adopted by the Bush Administration. However, Kelly (2010) declares that product quality is not to blame for the increase in road crash injuries.

Instead, the hands off approach taken by the regulatory body and lack of clear policies are to blame. Vehicle safety-performance standards and set and enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

This agency which is a part of the Department of Transportation has failed to come up with solid policies for addressing motor accidents.

The government should be able to anticipate, identify and minimize motor-vehicle hazards for the good of the population. Kelly (2010) demands that the NHTSA should “articulate clear quantitative goals and policies for achieving road injury reduction” (p.310).

By having clear quantitative goals, the vehicle industry in general and individual manufacturers in particular can be held accountable for crash injury problems that occur on their products.

Governments in many developed countries such as Britain, Austria and Germany have shown interest in adopting and pursuing initiatives to reduce fatal and severe injury on the highways.

These efforts have resulted in a drastic reduction in road injuries which point to the effectiveness of the programs.

Adopting specific objectives for road injury control will ensure that the US reduces its highway fatality rates to similar or lower levels than those of countries that are considered the world leaders’ in road safety progress.

Conclusion

This paper set out to analyze the manner in which the US government regulates product safety. It began by highlighting the importance of government regulation of business.

The paper has underlined the importance of government laws and regulations in protecting human health and safety. It has noted that the CPSC, FDA and NHTSA play an integral role in protecting consumers.

The paper has also noted that low standards by foreign suppliers can negatively affect US consumers. It has therefore been proposed that stringent regulations should be imposed on foreign products.

The paper has also observed that the lack of involvement by the NHTSA has led to an increase in fatalities on the highway.

More involvement and the articulation of clear goals and policies can resolve this problem and bring about road safety in the US.

References

Kelly, B. (2010). Why the United States lags in auto safety and lessons it can import. Journal of Public Health Policy 31(3), 369–377.

Popat, A.M. (2010). International Product Law Manual. NY: Kluwer Law International.

Widman, A. (2010). Advancing Federalism Concerns in Administrative Law through a Revitalization of State Enforcement Powers: A Case Study of the Consumer Product Safety and Improvement Act of 2008. Yale Law & Policy Review, 29 (1), 165-215.

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