Anyone who supplies products into the Australian market is part of the supply chain, including manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and hire companies.
All parts of the supply chain can contribute to safety. Each has a role to play in ensuring products meet safety standards and unsafe goods do not go on the market. There are opportunities to make products safer at every stage of the supply chain including:
assembly and instructions for consumer assembly
Manufacturers can have the most influence on their products’ safety at the design stage. In many cases, they can remove hazards and the potential for misuse in the design phase. As the main consumer contact, retailers can help consumers understand safe purchasing and use and have a responsibility to market products within the scope of their intended use.
The costs of supplying unsafe products can be substantial and include:
loss of business
loss of reputation
recall and recovery of goods sold
enforcement actions and penalties
Making and selling safe goods in the first place is always a good business investment.
getting copies of relevant standards and related documents
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2. Comply with all product bans and mandatory standards
Any products subject to mandatory product safety regulations must comply before you can sell them in Australia. Mandatory standards and bans are law.
3. Assess risks
When assessing a product’s risks and identifying its hazards, make sure you ask and answer these vital questions:
Who will use the product, and how will they use it?
Where will the product be used?
What sort of misuse can you anticipate, and will any misuse cause unsafe situations?
How likely is it that the user will come across hazards?
If they do, how severe are the consequences?
Will shipment or storage affect the product? If so, how?
How can product design, safety devices, warning labels, markings or instructions reduce the hazard(s) or its/their severity?
4. Manage your risk
It is essential to have a risk management process in place. Australian / New Zealand Standard 4360:2004 Risk management provides general advice on managing risk. Suppliers should apply this standard to all stages in the life of a product, asset, project, activity or function. You usually get the most benefit when you apply the risk management process right from the start.
5. Have a good compliance program
Using an effective product safety compliance program to comply with the law will result in supplying safer products. Compliance programs include quality assurance systems and staff training. The ACCC website contains guidance for consumer law compliance programs—this is an excellent resource for suppliers looking to create or improve a product safety compliance program.
You should consider each product on its merits. Key factors include:
the reliability of raw materials
the reliability of your suppliers
material types used and whether they are affected by temperature changes, moisture, UV light and other elements that may lead to effects like shrinkage, expansion and instability
storage conditions required to ensure the product remains safe
the compliance and recalls history of the product or similar products
design and production tolerances built into the product and any associated risks.
7. Ensure necessary tests are done
Many products need testing to ensure they are safe and free of faults and consistently meet any mandatory standards that apply. If you are supplying products covered by mandatory standards or bans, every item must comply. If you claim that all your goods comply, you must be able to support this with evidence. Having an effective compliance program helps you to gather this evidence.
While you can visually check some safety aspects, performance and strength requirements need qualified testers with the right equipment. This is usually the only way suppliers can know whether their products meet safety standards. For more details, view the product testing page.
8. Market products according to their design and intended use
It is illegal to make claims about products that exaggerate or misrepresent what they are designed to do. This also applies to any statements you make about your products and any photos of them you publish. Anyone marketing your products, including those involved in designing packaging and labels, should have a thorough understanding of the products and the risks they can pose.
When marketing or advertising a product, you should take into account:
its key safety aspects
what it has been designed for
who will use it
how they will use it.
9. Monitor customer complaints
Having a complaints handling system in place will help you pick up on any adverse incidents and trends relating to your products. The Australian Standard AS/ISO 10002:2006 Customer Satisfaction—Guidelines for complaints handling in organisations provides advice on the complaints handling process, including planning, design, operation, maintenance and improvement.
10. Monitor product safety in your industry
Check and use information on the Product Safety Recalls Australia website regularly for updates on any unsafe products supplied by others. Other sources include research reports, injury data and product reports from other countries.
11. Plan ahead for recalls
A company that has a set of recall roles and procedures in place will save time and money, and will help protect their reputation, in the event that a recall is necessary. It is in everybody’s interests to act quickly and surely to remove unsafe products as soon as they have been found. See the Product Safety Recalls Australia website for information and help on planning ahead for recalls.
12. Be aware of product liability laws
If consumers suffer serious injury or death from problems with your products, you and your business could be liable under the product liability provisions of the Australian Consumer Law or at common law. For more details, view Product liability.
13. Speak to your insurance provider
Your product liability insurance provider should be able to advise you on ways to minimise product hazards and risks in production. Get their advice and work with them to ensure all products you supply are safe.
14. Collaborate with others
Work with your suppliers and/or trade customers on product handling and marketing.
External support for suppliers
Industry and business associations
These work to protect the reputation of their industry by promoting good practices by members, including compliance and recall procedures. They can initiate activities to promote safety across their sector. View Industry and business associations for more details.
These provide expert advice to companies and industry associations on compliance systems, recalls, design, testing and quality assurance. They also work with individual companies to address any safety problems or non-compliance identified. For more details, view Compliance professionals.
Insurance companies and professionals can play a key role in helping businesses manage product safety and liability. You can talk to your insurance company about risk management.