Consumer Product Safety

NITE Alert_52

October 31, 2002

FY 2001 Results on Accident Information under the Accident Information Collection System

On October 15, 2002, the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) released a report on product accident information collected in FY 2002. The compiled report was based on the Accident Information Collection System adopted by NITE.

I. Accident information collected under the Accident Information Collection System

NITE collects accident information on consumer products under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, such as home electrical appliances, combustion appliances, vehicles, leisure items, baby products, etc, in case of: (1) Accidents causing human injury; (2) accidents causing property damage with a high probability of causing human injury and (3) defective products with a high probability of causing human injury.

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II. Accident Information Collection System and number of accident cases collected

Number of product accident cases collected in FY 2001 was 1,569. Of these, about 44 percent related to "home electric appliances" and about 28 percent to "combustion appliances".

Accident information is proactively collected from sources nationwide, including consumers, consumer affairs centers across the country, administrative agencies, reports from manufacturers and accident information posted in newspapers and on the Internet.

The total number of accident cases collected in FY 2001 was 1,852. The total comes to 1,569 as of August 10, 2002, counting multiple reports concerning the same product as a single case, while discounting cases where the product was found not to be the cause and cases concerning products not under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). (The number includes cases under investigation)

Chart 1 Number of accident cases classified by product type
Product classification Number and ratio
1 Home electric appliances 692 44.1%
2 Combustion appliances 443 28.2%
3 Vehicle/ vehicle related products 187 12.0%
4 Personal items 94 4.0%
5 Furniture and home products 62 4.0%
6 Health and sanitary goods 33 2.1%
7 Leisure goods 28 1.8%
8 Kitchen and table appliances 17 1.0%
9 Baby products 8 0.5%
10 Textile goods 5 0.3%
11 Others 0 0.0%
Total 1,569 100%

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III. Investigation results and accident trends

1.Accident causes

Investigations identified accident causes for 850 cases in FY 2001.
About 93 percent of the 422 cases collected in FY 2001, which classed as "accident caused by products", were found to be associated with problems of product design, manufacturing or labeling.
About 83 percent of the 428 cases, which classed as "accident not caused by products", appeared to involve misuse or negligence.

Of the collected accident cases, investigations have been completed with identified accident causes for 850 cases as of August 10, 2002.
About 93 percent of "accidents caused by products" were accidents appearing to involve problems of product design, manufacturing or labeling. About 83 percent of "accidents not caused by products" were attributable to "accidents caused by misuse or negligence" of consumers.

Chart 2 Number of accidents classified by causes (as of August 10, 2002)
Category Number of cases
Accidents caused by products 422
A :
Accidents supposedly caused by problems of design, manufacturing, labeling, etc.
391
B :
Accidents supposedly caused by defective products and affected by use conditions
13
C :
Accidents supposedly caused by performance degradation due to extended periods after manufacturing and long duration of operation
18
Accidents not caused by products 428
D :
Accidents supposedly caused by improper installation, repair work, handling during transportation, etc.
31
E :
Accidents due to misuse or negligence
355
F :
Other accidents not caused by products
42
Accidents caused by unknown factors 719
G:
Unidentified Cause
269
H:
Under Investigation
450
TOTAL 1,569

2.Damage and injury

Among "accidents caused by products", 78 cases involved human injury, including serious injuries and deaths, and 344 cases extended property damage.
165 cases of "accidents not caused by products" caused human injury, including serious injuries, and deaths. 264 cases extended damage.

Accidents caused by products " include one fatal accident which was due to carbon monoxide poisoning while using the so-called "energy saving trivet." 5 serious accidents were caused by "bicycle," "baby stroller," "riding helmet," "microwaveable foot warmer" and "bath boiler."
Some examples of fatal and serious injury cases among "accidents not caused by products", which were attributable to "accidents caused by misuse or negligence", are: a death caused by an electric heater which ignited bedding while the user was asleep (the user went to sleep with the heater on and the bedding caught fire when it contacted the heater when the user rolled over); and a serious injury caused by an explosion of a butane gas cartridge for a portable gas cooking stove which overheated when placed next to a gas stove.

Chart 3 Damages classified by accident causes
(Cases for which investigations are complete and causes have been identified)
Accident causes
Damages
Accident caused by products Accident not caused by products 
A B C subtotal D E F subtotal
Death 1 0 0 1 0 33 2 35
Serious injury 3 1 1 5 1 20 2 23
Minor injury 66 5 1 72 6 78 23 107
Extended damage 237 5 7 249 10 190 10 210
Product breakage 82 2 9 93 13 31 5 49
No damage 2 0 0 2 1 3 0 4
Total 391 13 18 422 31 355 42 428

Classifications:

  • A:Accidents supposedly caused by problems of design, manufacturing, labeling, etc.
  • B:Accidents supposedly caused by problems of products themselves, and affected by use conditions.
  • C:Accidents supposedly caused by performance degradation due to extended periods after manufacturing and long duration of operation.
  • D:Accidents supposedly caused by works/services by agents or handling in transportation, etc.
  • E:Accidents due to misuse or negligence.
  • F:Other accidents not caused by products.
  • G:Accidents caused by unknown factors.

3.Preventive measures

With regards to "accidents caused by products", measures are implemented for all products believed to require preventive measures by manufacturers, etc.

Manufacturers, etc, have implemented preventive measures for about 96 percent of "accidents caused by products." The remaining 4 percent includes; cases for which measures could not be implemented because product manufacturers, etc, could not be identified due to fire damage, etc; and cases caused by deteriorated products now rarely seen in the market for which no other accident information has been collected. Action has been taken in relation to 100% of products for which preventive measures are considered necessary. With regards to accidents for which preventive measures have been implemented, manufacturers, etc, have posted company announcements in newspapers and on web pages, and conducted product recalls and replacements. For accidents caused by problems in labeling or usage, preventive measures such as alerting through direct mail and manufacturers web pages, improvement in the manufacturing processes, enhancement of and strict adherence to quality control procedures, and improvement of instruction manuals and labeling, etc, have been implemented.

4.Accident trend for FY2001

In FY2001, information on multiple accidents related to "DC (direct current) power supply equipment" was collected.

  • (1) Accidents classified by products

    Of the top 5 accident causing items of FY2001, the highest number of accident cases reported to NITE involved DC (direct current) power supply equipment (battery chargers for electric shavers, etc.). The reason for this is that more than 200 smoking and ignition accidents occurred with products of a specific manufacturer. Company announcements have been posted and the products are under recall.
    "Kerosene heaters" typically have a high number of reported accident cases ranking first or second every year.
    The majority of cases were caused by misuse or negligence, with many cases presumed to be caused by drying laundry falling on top of the heater catching fire, and fires presumed to be caused by kerosene leaking from improperly capped cartridge tanks.
    Many accident information cases concerning "four wheel vehicles" are collected every year. The majority are related to vehicle fires. Although fire origin cannot be identified in many cases because of significant fire damages, there are occasionally accidents that are attributed to faulty maintenance or repair, such as oil leaks, gasoline leaks, short-circuits in electric wiring and misplacing of flammable materials, etc.
    The number of collected accident information cases on "color TV sets" decreased in FY2001 from FY2000. This may due to three companies placing company announcements in FY2000, announcing that prolonged use of products may pose fire hazards, and implementing repair and replacement measures.

Chart 4 Top 5 accident items (year)
  FY1999
(956 cases)
FY2000
(1,448 cases)
FY2001
(1,569 cases)
Rank Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%)
1 Kerosene heater 150 16 Refrigerator 146 10 DC power supply equipment 218 14
2 Four wheel vehicle 112 12 Kerosene heater 130 9 Kerosene heater 184 12
3 Gas cooking stove (LP gas) 42 4 Four wheel vehicle 116 8 Four wheel vehicle 130 8
4 Disposable cigarette lighter 34 4 Color TV 90 6 Color TV 65 4
5 Electric heater 32 3 DC power supply equipment 64 4 Disposable cigarette lighter 62 4
Total 370 39 546 37 659 42

When looking at the top 5 items list for "accidents caused by products", the number of accidents related to "DC power supply equipment" was highly conspicuous in FY2001 because of frequent smoke/fire incidents due to design defects in battery chargers for electric shavers.

Chart 5 Top 5 products for "Accidents caused by products" (year)
  FY 1999
(948 completed cases)
FY 2000
(1,395 completed cases)
FY2001
(1,199 completed cases)
Rank Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%)
1 Disposable cigarette lighter 16 17 Refrigerator 142 10.2 DC power supply equipment 201 18.0
2 Bicycle 13 1.4 DC power supply equipment 64 4.6 Disposable cigarette lighter 26 2.3
3 Refrigerator 11 1.2 Electric clothes
drier
52 3.7 Humidifier 19 1.7
4 Four wheel vehicle 10 1.1 Color TV 50 3.6 Color TV  18 1.6
5 Color TV
Interior lamp
8
8
8
8
Disposable cigarette lighter 23 1.6 Vacuum cleaner 18 1.6
Total 66 7.0 331 23.7 282 25.2

According to the chart for the top 5 products for "accidents due to misuse or negligence", "kerosene heaters" and "LP Gas cooking stoves" have ranked first and second for the past three years, with combustion appliances generally ranking high in this chart. NITE has been drawing the attention of consumers and manufacturers to those issues by providing information on its website and in the Collected Accident Information Reports. In order to minimize "accidents due to misuse or negligence," manufacturers have implemented improvements such as the placement of highly visible handling precautions on failure to turn off or overheating. However, accidents continue to occur despite these efforts, indicating that the education of consumers and the promotion of consumer awareness are important and effective factors in the prevention of accidents caused by misuse or negligence.

Chart 6 Top 5 products for "accidents caused by improper use or negligence" (year)
  FY1999
(951 completed cases)
FY2000
(1,395 completed cases)
FY2001
(1,119 completed cases)
Rank Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%) Item # of cases Ratio (%)
1 Kerosene heater 123 13.0 Kerosene heater 109 7.8 Kerosene heater 103 9.2
2 Gas cooking stove (LP gas) 38 4.0 Gas cooking stove (LP gas) 40 2.9 Gas cooking stove (LP gas) 27 2.4
3 Four wheel vehicle 28 3.0 Four wheel vehicle 32 2.3 Electric heater 21 1.9
4 Electric heater  27 2.8 Electric heater 15 1.1 Gas cooking stove (city gas) 13 1.2
5 Kerosene fan heater 13 1.4 Kerosene fan heater 14 1.0 Kerosene fan heater 11 1.0
Total 229 24.2 210 15.1 175 15.6

Fore more information;
National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE)
Product Safety Technology Center, Product Safety Investigation Division

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