Just 23 of the CPSC’s 540 employees are on the job during the furlough, including all field investigators and port inspectors, reports Bloomberg BNA. According to Scott Wolfson, an agency spokesperson, the remaining staff, representing about 5% of the agency’s employees, are only legally allowed to address “imminent” product safety risks and threats.
CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum, joined by consumer advocacy groups, has expressed concern and frustration that the agency, which ordinarily receives about 200 product safety reports each day, cannot promptly respond. The shutdown will also complicate the efforts of businesses that are attempting to fulfill their reporting obligations and conduct timely voluntary recalls.
Rulemaking activities and settlement negotiations are suspected during the shutdown. Recalls will only proceed if they rise to the level of an imminent safety risk. The agency’s activities in cooperation with Customs and Border Patrol are also uncertain and generally on hold. The CPSC ordinarily has 20 inspectors at 15 major U.S. ports and opened an office to monitor products in China in 2011.
The agency’s five commissioners continue to report to work, but cannot attend any meetings or conferences.
The CPSC’s shutdown policy, “Financial Management Directives System: Order No. 0921.1,” which provides examples of “excepted employees,” is available here.