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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 21, 2016

CPSC Chairman Kaye provides update on agency investigation of hoverboard safety

By John Dumoulin

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot F. Kaye has issued a statement on the safety of hoverboards (also called “smart boards” or “self-balancing boards”) and the status of the agency’s investigation concerning the products over reported fire and fall hazards. Kaye said “all options remain on the table for CPSC” as it continues its investigation into these fire and fall hazards, and that officials from CPSC, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration were “regularly sharing information and insights” to prevent injuries and property damage from these fires and falls. He encouraged consumers to report fires or falls to the agency through its website (Kaye StatementJanuary 20, 2016).

Kaye said CPSC is “actively investigating a number of companies that make or sell hoverboards.” Those companies are listed in a related CPSC statement. He praised Amazon and leaders of other institutions that have taken action even before the agency has finished its investigation. Specifically, Kaye commended Amazon for allowing consumers to return hoverboards purchased from the company for a full refund and said he expected other retailers and manufacturers also to offer a full refund to their customers. He said he also expected large-volume online sellers “to stop selling these products until we have more certainty regarding their safety.”

Kaye also commended leaders of colleges, universities, institutions, and organizations that “have been active in prohibiting the use of hoverboards on campus.”

Fire hazard. Kaye said the agency’s investigators and engineers were working to find the cause of hoverboard fires and that agency staff was “focusing on the components of the lithium-ion battery packs as well as their interaction with the circuit boards inside the units.” He also stated that CPSC staff had consulted with experts to verify safe design practices for use of these batteries in hoverboards and that the agency expects these products to have “certain basic safety technologies” that should prevent overheating and potential combustion.

Fall hazard. Chairman Kaye said that “based on the increasing number of serious injuries and emergency room visits associated with these products,” the agency was expanding its investigation into falls associated with hoverboards. Commenting that he was concerned that the current designs of hoverboards “might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users,” Kaye went on to say that CPSC was investigating the design of the products “to see if they present a hidden hazard that is leading to fall injuries that should not occur, even on a product that presents some risk of falling.”

Kaye stressed that fall injuries “can be serious and life-altering.” Noting that hospitals were “reporting spikes in children and adults being admitted after suffering serious falls,” Kaye advised that if consumers or their children continue to use hoverboards, they should use a helmet and pads.

No safety standards. Kaye said there are no safety standards for hoverboards, as he also mentioned in a prior statement in December. Kaye said that this was unacceptable, but he reported that ASTM International and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) were preparing to work on the development of standards for these products “that would seek to address both types of hazards.” Kay stated that he would direct CPSC staff to participate in this work.

Kaye also stressed that “while components of hoverboards, such as battery packs and power supplies, might be UL certified, there currently is no UL certification for hoverboards themselves.” He said a “UL” mark on hoverboards or their packaging should not be taken as an indication of the products’ safety and could be a sign of a counterfeit product.

Safety tips. While CPSC’s investigation continues, Kaye urged consumers to use caution with hoverboards and offered the following safety tips:

  • Have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards.
  • Charge in an open area away from combustible materials.
  • Gear up before riding, which means putting on a skateboard helmet, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards.
  • Do not use a hoverboard on or near a road.

CPSC statement. A related CPSC statement concerning the hoverboard fires stated that this is a priority investigation for the agency and that “CPSC is devoting the staff time and resources necessary to find the root causes of the fires.” The statement went on to say that CPSC engineers continue to test hoverboards and that the agency “is actively investigating the safety of hoverboards made and/or sold by” a number of companies that were listed in the statement. CPSC said it has not made any determinations regarding the safety of these brands.

Companies: Digital Gadgets LLC; Glide Boards;; I Lean Hoverboards; Kateeskitty; Keenford Limited; LeCam Technology; Luxiyan; One Stop Electronic Inc.; Swagway LLC; Uwheels; YOOLIKED

MainStory: TopStory CPSCNews SportsandRecEquipmentNews

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