Consumer Product Safety

NITE Alert_61

October 24, 2003

FY2002 Results on Accident Information
under the Accident Information Collection System

On October 24, 2003, the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) released a report on product accident cases collected in FY2002. The report was compiled based on the Accident Information Collection System adopted by NITE as directed by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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 goods, baby products, etc, in case of: (1) accidents causing human injury, (2) accidents causing property damage with 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

The number of product accident cases collected in FY 2002 was 2,132. Of these, about 47 percent related to "home electric appliances" and about 31 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 FY2002 was 2,132. The total comes to 1,803 as of June 13, 2003, 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 information classified by product type
Product classification Number and ratio
1 Home electric appliances 850 47.1%
2 Combustion appliances 565 31.3%
3 Vehicle/ vehicle related products 186 10.3%
4 Personal items 79 4.4%
5 Furniture and home products 56 3.1%
6 Leisure goods 24 1,3%
7 Kitchen and table appliances 16 0.9%
8 Baby products 10 0.6%
9 Health and sanitary goods 9 0.5%
10 Textile goods 7 0.4%
11 Others 1 0.1%
  Total 1,803 100%

1. Accident causes

Investigation identified accident causes for 867 cases in FY 2002 (Total for cases collected between FY2000 and 2002).
About 90 percent of 265 cases collected in FY 2002, classed as "accidents caused by products", were found to be associated with problems of product design, manufacturing or labeling. About 84 percent of the 186 cases, classed as "accidents not caused by products", appeared to involve misuse or negligence.

Of the collected accident cases, investigations have been completed with identified accident causes on 867 cases (including 11 cases from 2000, 405 cases from 2001 and 451 cases from 2002) as of June 13, 2003.
About 90 percent of "accidents caused by products" which were collected in FY2002, were accidents appearing to involve problems of product design, manufacturing or labeling. About 84 percent of "accidents not caused by product" were attributable to "accidents caused by misuse or negligence" of consumers.

Chart 2 Number of accident classified by causes
Category 2000 2001 2002
Accidents caused by product 7 131 265
A :
Accidents supposedly caused by problems of design, manufacturing, labeling, etc.
7 114 238
B :
Accidents supposedly caused by problems of products themselves and affected by use conditions
0 6 7
C :
Accidents supposedly caused by performance degradation due to extended periods after manufacturing and long duration of operation
0 11 20
Accidents not caused by product 4 274 186
D :
Accidents supposedly caused by works/services by agents or handling in transportation, etc.
4 11 14
E :
Accidents due to misuse or negligence
0 224 157
F :
Other accidents not caused by products
0 39 15
Accidents caused of unknown origin 17 135 150
G:
Unidentified Cause
17 135 150
Total 28 540 601

2. Damage and injury

Among "accidents caused by products", there were 40 cases of human injury, including serious and minor injuries, no deaths, and 192 cases which extended to property damages.
"Accidents not caused by products" include 73 cases of human injury, including serious injuries, minor injuries and deaths, and 88 cases which extended to property damage.

3 serious injury cases of "accidents caused by products" involved a "portable toilet", a "disposable cigarette gas lighter" and a "kickboard".
Among "accidents not caused by products", 13 deaths and 11 serious injuries were due to "accidents caused by misuse or negligence"; for example, electrocution caused by a graphite fishing rod contacting a high-voltage overhead wire at a railway crossing;
carbon monoxide poisoning due to use of a heating appliance with a charcoal briquette in a car; and a boy suffering a laceration after his right heel got caught in a wheel when sitting on a child seat mounted on a bicycle.

Chart 3 Damages classified by accident causes
(Cases of which results were identified through investigation)

Accident causes

Damages

Accident caused by
product defect
Accident not caused by
product defect
A B C Subtotal D E F Subtotal
Death 0 0 0 0 0 13 0 13
Serious injury 1 2 0 3 0 11 2 13
Minor injury 31 3 3 37 4 41 2 47
Extended damage 182 2 8 192 6 72 10 88
Product breakage 23 0 9 32 4 19 1 24
No damage 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1
Total 238 7 20 265 14 157 15 186

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 of unknown origin.

3. Preventive measures

Manufacturers, etc, have implemented preventive measures for about 94 percent of "accidents caused by products". The remaining 6 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 witch no other accident information has been collected. Specific preventive actions include: (1) posting company announcements in newspapers and on web pages, and conducting product recalls and replacements, (2) alerting through direct mail and manufacturers’ web pages, (3) improvement of manufacturing processes, and enhancement and strict adherence to quality control procedures, and (4) improvement of instruction manuals and labeling.

4. Accident trend in FY 2002

In FY2002, information on multiple accidents related to "DC power supply equipment" was collected

  • Accidents categorized by products

    Of the top 5 accident causing items between FY2001 and 2002, the highest number of accident cases reported to NITE involved the "DC power supply equipment" used for electric shavers, etc. This is due to multiple accidents involving smoke and fire caused by products manufactured by a specific manufacturer. Company announcements have been posted and the products are currently under recall.
    "Kerosene heaters" typically have a high number of reported accident cases, ranking second every year. The majority of accident causes are categorized as "misuse or negligence of the user", with many cases presumed to be caused by drying laundry falling on top of the heater and catching fire, and in other cases, fires presumed to be caused by kerosene leaking from improperly capped cartridge tanks.
    Many accident information cases associated with "four wheel vehicles" are collected each year. Causes cannot be identified in most cases due to extensive fire damages, but identified causes are related to poor maintenance and repair such as oil leaks, gasoline leaks, wiring short circuits, and misplacing of flammable items after repair work. The number of collected accident cases on "color TV" ranked fourth in 2000 and 2001 following company announcements placed by two manufacturers in FY2000 announcing "prolonged use may cause a crack on a part of the substrate, and continued use may result in fire and smoke". However, this category did not appear in the top 5 items list for FY2002.
    Many accidents involving "electric heaters" are caused by flammable items such as bedding, coming into contact with heaters without the user noticing. They are classed as "accidents due to misuse or negligence" since these fires started because the user forgot to turn off the power when going out or left the heaters on during sleep. NITE collected accident information involving "refrigerators" associated with the faulty design of products manufactured by a specific manufacturer in 2000. However,
    "refrigerators" have not ranked in top 5 items since 2001 following the implementation of preventive measures by the relevant manufacturer.

Chart 4 Top 5 items classified by year
  FY 2000
(Number of accident
information: 1,446)
FY 2001
(Number of accident information: 1,546)
FY 2002
(Number of accident information: 1,803)
Rank Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio
1 Refrigerator 146 10.1 DC power Supply Equipment 218 14.1 DC power Supply Equipment 256 14.2
2 Kerosene Heater 130 8.9 Kerosene Heater 188 12.2 Kerosene Heater 180 10.0
3 Four Wheel Vehicle 116 8.0 Four Wheel Vehicle 124 8.0 Gas Cooking Stove 146 8.1
4 Color TV 90 6.2 Color TV 67 4.3 Four Wheel Vehicle 135 7.5
5 DC power Supply Equipment 64 4.4 Disposable Cigarette Lighter 62 4.0 Electric Heater 97 5.4
Total 546 37.6 659 42.6 814 45.2

When looking at the worst 5 items list for "accidents caused by products", the number of accidents related to "DC power supply equipment" used for electric shavers (fire and smoke due to improper design) is conspicuously high in comparison to other products due to frequent accidents occurring in the last three years. This is due to multiple accidents involving smoke and fire caused by products manufactured by the same manufacturer. Company announcement have been made and the products are currently under recal.

Chart 5 Top 5 items related to "accidents caused by products"
  FY 2000
(Number of accident
information: 1,404)
FY 2001
(Number of accident
information: 1,409)
FY 2002
(Number of accident
information: 601)
Rank Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio
1 Refrigerator    142 10.1 DC power Supply Equipment 211 15.0 DC power Supply Equipment 159 26.5
2 DC power Supply Equipment 64 4.6 Disposable Cigarette Lighter 28 2.0 Electric foot warmer 25 4.2
3 Electric Laundry Drier 52 3.7 Color TV 21 1.5 Disposable Cigarette Lighter 11 1.8
4 Color TV  50 3.6 Humidifier 19 1.4 Vacuum Cleaner 8 1.3
5 Disposable Cigarette Lighter 23 1.6 Vacuum Cleaner   18 1.3 Electric Laundry Machine 5 0.8
Total 331 23.6 297 21.2 208 34.6

According to the chart for the top 5 items for "accidents due to misuse or negligence" in past three years, kerosene heaters and gas cooking stoves continue to rank first and second respectively, while other combustion appliances regularly appear in the top 5. NITE has been promoting consumer and manufacturer awareness by providing information on its webpage and the publication of collected accident information reports.
In order to minimize "accidents due to misuse or negligence," manufacturers of kerosene heaters and gas cooking stoves that are frequently involved in accidents have been promoting consumer awareness by placing warnings and precautions on the instruction manuals of kerosene heaters and installing apparatus on gas cooking stoves to prevent fire due to failure to turn off or overheating. However, accidents continue to occur despite these efforts, indicating that greater efforts in the education of consumers and the further promotion of consumer awareness are important and effective factors in the prevention of accidents caused by misuse or negligence.

Chart 6 Top 5 items related to "accidents due to misuse or negligence"
  FY 2000
(Number of accident
information: 1,404)
FY 2001
(Number of accident
information: 1,409)
FY 2002
(Number of accident
information: 601)
Rank Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio Product Number of accidents Ratio
1 Kerosene Heater  109 7.8 Kerosene Heater   143 10.2 Gas Cooking Stove  32 5.3
2 Gas Cooking Stove 44 3.1 Gas Cooking Stove 46 3.3 Kerosene Heater 21 3.5
3 Four Wheel Vehicle   32 2.3 Electric Heater 32 2.3 Four Wheel Vehicle 17 2.8
4 Electric Heater  15 1.1 Four Wheel Vehicle  31 2.2 Firewood Bath Boiler 6 1.0
5 Kerosene Fan Heater 14 1.0 Kerosene Fan Heater 17 1.2 Electric Heater 5 0.8
Total 214 15.3 269 19.1 81 11.9

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

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