Report on Washington DC AFSL Meetings
John Werner, President, Robert Kellner, Treasurer and Nancy Blogin, Secretary traveled to Washington DC to meet with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, (CPSC) and with the U.S. Department of Transportation, (DOT) on April 11, 2013.
The first meeting of the day was scheduled for 10:30 to meet with Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. Knowing we would be required to go through security and would be waiting for an escort to the meeting area, we arrived at 9:45 to allow for the above. The purpose of the meeting was primarily to introduce Mr. Werner and Mr. Kellner. Both were recently elected members of the Board of Directors of the National Fireworks Association. The NFA is the largest fireworks trade organization in the United States and represents hundreds of fireworks shippers. Since they were both new to their positions, they wanted to introduce themselves to the Agencies that regulate our industry.
To our surprise we not only met with Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Compliance Officer Demar Granados, but nine others from the commission as well as a local reporter. Mr. Granados discussed the break charge test that is currently being structured and the chamber that they propose to test fireworks in, rather than the current ear testing method, which he admitted is not good. Mr. Granados stated that he would appreciate our member’s feedback on the proposal. We stated that we were unaware that they were receiving comments and asked for the cutoff date for the comments. No one was able to give us that date, but assured us they would get the information to us right away. We commended them on the progress of developing a more reliable testing service.
They asked if we had a good working relationship with AFSL to which Nancy stated, “Yes.” She explained that AFSL personnel attend our Trade Expo’s annually giving both an informational seminar on the procedures, as well as having a booth in our Trade Show. She explained our relationship with the National Council on Fireworks Safety as well and their attendance and training at our Expo’s.
Mr. Werner commented to them that prior to our Event no one had ever really tried to educate China on our compliance rules. They stated that John Golden will be in the CPSC office in Beijing and working with Chinese manufacturers. CPSC extended an invitation for any of us to visit Mr. Golden when we were in the Beijing area.
Mr. Kellner stated that this year he will be conducting a seminar that will be sub-captioned in Mandarin for the Chinese in attendance at our Expo. The Seminar will be on Understanding the U.S. Fireworks Regulations.
Our next meeting was at 11:30 with Commissioner Robert S. Adler, and Jason Levine, Chief Counsel to Commissioner Adler as well as Jana Fong-Swamidoss, Counsel to Commissioner Adler.
Our meeting with Mr. Adler was comprised for the most part by his questioning us on such topics as the number of domestic manufacturers in the U.S., and how had the additional restrictions since 911 impacted the industry.
The remainder of the meeting was more about the new Board introducing themselves and Nancy talking a bit about the NFA and its membership impact on the industry. His asking if she had seen the NFA grow over the years or did she recently join in as well. Blogin stated she was one of the founding members of the National Fireworks Association and had been Secretary for over a decade.
The next meeting was at 2:00PM with the U.S. Department of Transportation, (DOT, PHMSA). Taking the metro over to their offices was a pleasant experience, allowing us to arrive just in time for the meeting.
The NFA party of three had arranged a meeting with, Administrator, Quaterman, Dr, Magdy El-Sibalie, Associate Administrator, Ryan Posten, Deputy Associate Administrator Policy and Programs, PHH-2 and William Schoonover, Deputy Associate Administrator Field Operations, PHH-3, as well as Ryan Paquet, Director Office of Hazardous Materials Permits and Approvals. To the surprise of the NFA Directors, they were also joined by eight additional DOT personnel bringing their total attendance to 13.
The discussion was centered on streamlining the process for approvals and how requests are handled. They stated that they are working on an on-line application that hopefully would work better for us as well as China.
We discussed getting up-dated information on disposal methods and locations. DOT said they are working toward a one move operation for disposal and would keep us apprised of any rule changes.
We asked that the PHMSA EX #’s document in 87-1 is able to be obtained free of charge to everyone from the DOT website and not have to go to APA to secure the information. Since it is a mandatory rule from PHMSA it would seem to us that it should be made available on PHMSA’s website. They stated they would look into it.
DOT requested to be invited to the NFA Expo for a seminar and a booth in the Trade Show. Kellner said he would check for availability on the seminar lineup and the trade show space.
They provided us with posters in both English and Mandarin that could be used at our Expo, which will be most helpful. Nancy also was given a copy of the Explosives (EX) Approvals Regulatory Guidelines for Shipping and Transporting Fireworks pamphlet. Hopefully, we will be able to get a supply of these to be handed out at our Expo.
The following day Robert Kellner and Nancy Blogin began a two day conference with American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) on the Display Fireworks Standards Committee Meeting.
Kellner is on the Committee and Blogin sat in on the meetings as an invited guest. Mr. John Rogers, AFSL Executive Director conducted the meeting.
AFSL was established in 1989 and has tested more than 75 Million Cases of Consumer Fireworks in over 20 years of practice. AFSL offers a complete CPSC Certification process which is available online. It is an independent, not-for-profit membership association, which was organized strictly for the purpose of improving the safety and compliance with mandatory and voluntary requirements for fireworks distributed in the U.S. marketplace. Participation in the AFSL program is voluntary and is available to all U.S. importers and Hong Kong/China shippers that sign a participation agreement with AFSL. China factories, though technically not AFSL members participate in the program by making available shipment of fireworks for evaluation and certification. AFSL currently has listed more than 800 factories in China that provide products that are tested and certified on behalf of U.S. importer participants.
AFSL conducts industry-wide training seminars for manufacturers, related industries, and industry associations in China and works directly with individual manufacturers to assure that the industry is fully aware of requirements that fireworks exported to the U.S. meet all applicable criteria identified with the application of a high-security certification sticker and a lot identification stamp on each shipping carton. All product evaluations are conducted by an independent, world renowned testing laboratory, SGS Labs, under a contract with AFSL.
AFSL is now certifying 1.3G Fireworks and began Centralized Testing in China beginning September 1st.
The Website for American Fireworks Standards Laboratory is: www.AFSL.org
The meeting began following the review of the minutes from the April 2012 Standards Committee Meeting, with a review of standards committee operating procedures. The procedures are in place, but a line by line review was conducted and any revisions were made based on a majority vote by Committee members. Members consisted of display Industry Representatives, Regulatory Authorities, Shipping Lines, Technical Experts and the Insurance Industry.
Those present were given an update on the testing and certification program activities, and program participants.
A review of display standards included:
a). Warning labels for individual products
b). Requirements for documentation for drop testing
c). Requirements for documentation for thermal stability testing
d.) Requirements for cardboard layers for cartons
e). Requirements for fuses and fuses protection of shells
f). Requirements for container loading supervision
g). Review of 2014 Audit checklists.
The primary reason for developing and implementing the 1.3G testing by AFSL was to assure the Shipping Lines that the products they were loading were tested and approved for safety. Without this reassurance the lines were refusing to load the containers for fear of disaster on board. To assure the U.S. Display operators of getting their merchandise shipped it was necessary to have testing labs that the freight lines would recognize and approve for authenticity.
Having AFSL at the NFA Expo each year along with the same groups of people attending this meeting, Insurance, Shipping, Testing Lab Authorities, Manufacturers and Importer/Exporters is vital to the industry.
Our NFA members must keep the Board of Directors informed as to their needs, so that we may continue to meet with the authorities and work on your problems with a strong voice for the industry.