The end of risk management; what we need to do next

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The recent toy recalls from Fisher-Price and Jakks are upsetting to everyone in the toy industry.  They are particularly upsetting to some of the smaller manufacturers who have spotless records but suffer additional costs and damaged customer relations because of the errors of other manufacturers.

It seems to me, however, that in assessing blame and determining action, we need to acknowledge that the ground has shifted under us.  The existing American model of assessing and protecting against perceived risk is based on the notion that there is an acceptable level of risk.  That notion is dead.

Consumers, NGO’s and the government are rebelling against the notion that sometimes bad things happen to good people.  They do not feel that any child should be damaged by any product, no matter how small a percentage of the population that child is. 

We may not like this way of thinking but it is the new reality.  We can say that a company only had x number of children hurt over x number of years but the parents of those x number of children don’t care.  In fact, the consumer population as a whole doesn’t care. They want zero danger for their children.

So what do we as an industry do about it?  Here are some ideas:                    

Let’s not just acknowledge but let’s own the fact that one child getting hurt damages the entire toy industry.  It makes no difference how good any one company is; we as an industry will be measured by our weakest member.

We need to share best practices.  We need to make everyone better at making toys.

We need to reconsider all of the ways that we currently design and manufacture toys.  Everything should be on the table for change.

We need a way to share what we discover. This can be through social networks, conferences, blogs, articles and any other means.

Ultimately, we need to figure out how we are going to operate in a world that has a zero tolerance for childhood risk. 

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