November 9, 2009

Macopalypse 2009: Recalled Maclaren Hinges An 'Industry-Wide Issue'

maclaren_hinge_recall.jpg

So clearly, the biggest stroller recall in history, of one of the most popular brands, for amputating children's fingers is a big deal.

But then you realize that the actual threat posed to your kid's future as a concert pianist is entirely within your control--just keep the kid clear when you open or close the stroller--and the threat passes. It's not like finding out your favorite pacifier is made with lead or something.

And so the questions start to percolate about how such a risk could go either undetected, unreported, or unaddressed for, what, ten years? Is that the right way to read this situation? And what about the rest of the umbrella strollers, aren't they a risk, too? Were the JPMA and other standards and safety organizations asleep on the job?

As it turns out, Maclaren USA's chairman Bahman Kia emailed me this morning, offering to discuss the recall and the company's response, both to date and going forward. [Looks like he's been making the blog rounds.] By the time Bahman Kia and I finally connected, I was pushing K2 home from the park--in our Volo. So yes, in a way, a Maclaren prevented me from taking notes or recording our chat. The quotes are real, but what follows is based on my understanding of the situation:

First up, it's not just Maclaren; any folding stroller with a hinge is prone to the same risk of pinching. As Kia put it, this is an "industry-wide issue," which Maclaren has "taken the lead to resolve."

The recall covers strollers as far back as 1999 because that's when the current Maclaren was acquired out of receivership by the current owner [US investor Farzad Rastegar, who technically bought it in 2001 from a fund he was affiliated with, which had purchased it in 1999. But close enough.]

But the hinge covers Maclaren developed--which are apparently fabric--should fit not just any Maclaren, but any folding stroller that has a hinge. One thing we didn't talk about: if this is such a universal safety issue for folding strollers--which all share the same basic design Owen Maclaren introduced 40+ years ago--have standards bodies in the US or UK ever taken it up? Did JPMA and ASTM discuss amputation risk at some point and just decide that is was a human error issue? Has anyone ever researched or proposed or even launched a non-pinching folding stroller? For all Maclaren's hustle to address this now, I still can't shake the feeling that this risk has been dismissed by the entire industry for years. Decades.

Anyway, Maclaren engineers have been working for "a couple of years" on a complete redesign of the folding mechanism, which precipitated a complete redesign of the entire stroller structure, and which the company will launch next year.

As Kia explains it, the redesign was part of a safety review of the entire stroller that began a couple of years ago, when an increased number of injury reports followed increased sales volume. Which I took to mean that most of the amputations and lacerations mentioned in the recall are recent, not that they've been watching them accumulate slowly and steadily, one or two each year or whatever.

I've filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CPSC in an attempt to map out the timeline and assessments along the way for the Maclaren recall, but also to get a sense for the scope of the entire hinge safety issue. Hopefully we'll find out if the CPSC has investigated pinching and amputation risks before, or has logged similar injuries with other strollers. Then we'll have a better sense of whether this Maclaren recall is the iceberg or just the tip

10 Comments

Personally I find it inexcusable Maclaren didn't plan for a huge spike in traffic to its site. It shows they don't really "get" their market or the channels their customers interact through. Here are my thoughts on the recall...

http://jmichaeli.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/maclaren-crisis-management-gone-wrong/

good grief people, keep your kids OUT OF THE WAY when folding ANY stroller. It's amazing to sit back and watch our once rugged, hearty culture digress into complete and utter metro-sissification with hysteria over stuff like this.

Here's my assessment of the "scope of the entire hinge safety issue"...

Hell don't stop there, let's mandate the fitting of hinge covers on ANY hinge type device present anywhere in our lives where young fingers could get pinched off...house doors, car doors, store front doors, cabinets, toyboxes...

hey...more fun would be to just simply mandate their removal - as I'm imagining glorious breezeways throughout my home and my neighbors home, oh, and all cars would suddenly look like a jeep.

wow,,,life on this planet...it's sooooo frightening...when you look around, potentially anything we've ever invented could become a guillotine...yikes, what should we do??...as I'm biting my nails.

Grow a set and own the risk wouldja?? and yea, as a dad of 3 stellar kids, I feel totally sympathetic about those who were affected by a folding stroller...

but I feel even MORE sympathy for our beloved soldiers putting their lives on the line everyday fighting for our freedom to whine and bleat about crap like this. GHEESH!

Wow, folding strollers might be dangerous to fingers?

The Phil and Ted's is pretty deadly: Heavy and the mechanism works suddenly. Let's recall it.

Anyways, companies should of course make reasonable efforts to make their products safer. Anyone think there should be standard hinge types tested for safety? Regulation requiring tested, relatively safer standard hinge types? Anyone?

obviously [or obvious to me, anyway], standard hinges would be unworkable and a huge burden, and a PITA for mfrs and designers. Reminds me of the ridiculous attempts to mandate headlight forms in the 80s. Pointless. But if the question is, should strollers [or children's products, what's the scope?] not contain bone-crushing pinch points? The answer could be yes. Or if the problem's too small or the cost too great, the answer could be, "no, just keep your kid away from the stroller, dude." Let the data out and see what question makes sense.

So Maclaren announces an enormous voluntary recall that, according to them, really should apply to ALL folding strollers and we kinda actually have known about this problem for a while, but WAIT we have a brand new design coming to you soon that nobody else will have because we're so safety-minded?

How convenient.

-g

I think "voluntary" needs to be in quotes. The involvement of the CPSC somewhere along the surely helped them embrace the idea of a voluntary recall.

I wanted to write sooner but I slammed my hand in the car door and then I closed my daughter's hand in the front door to our house. On top of that I sliced my finger with my steak knife and my wife sliced her leg open while shaving...where is the government to regulate the manufacturers of all these devices?

I think that most rational (I.E. non democrat) parents can move past the media spin that has been placed on this voluntary recall and apply rational thought to the fact that this is a mechanical device that should be used with care. Yes, children can move suddenly and no we can't predict what they will do at all times. Maclaren has taken the lead in removing the possibility that human error can occur with these devices. They should be recognized for the impeccable safety record that they have globally rather than attacked for alerting parents that if you don't think and don't pay attention, your child can get hurt.

We love our Maclaren buggies and will continue to push our daughter around in our bright pink Triumph. Hell, we may even be risky for the next couple of days and pay attention to where she is while we open and close the buggy.

I love how this recall is wide-ranging enough and is eliciting such diverse reactions from people that anyone can find justification for their own half-assed conclusions about other peoples' parenting and politics.

Thanks, CPSC!

I nearly the tip of my finger off with my Phil & Ted's Sport double inline stroller while opening it. The injury took almost a year to fully heal. It has a scissor like hinge sticking out that closes on you when you're holding the stroller while opening it. I'm freaked out now everytime I open it. I think this design could also be improved upon or at least covered up.

Phil and Ted has been offering a hinge cover for a quite a while to prevent the injury you describe.

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