Fisher-Price Report Warns Against Ignoring Warnings

Thom Weidlich 06.10.21


Your best tools for preventing crises are your ears. Listen to what people — employees, consumers, experts — are saying about your product or your actions. A U.S. congressional report released this week gives us a jaw-dropping example of a company doing exactly not that.

The report concerns the now-recalled Rock ’n Play sleeper, which allowed infants to sleep on an incline despite the expert consensus that they should sleep on a flat surface. Mattel’s Fisher-Price subsidiary introduced the item (pictured) in 2009 and recalled it (as in, 5.7 million of them) in 2019.

More than 50 infants died using the Rock ’n Play over the 10 years Fisher-Price raked in $200 million from it, according to the report. We wrote about the company’s crisis back in 2019, focusing mostly on its non-recommended tactic of blaming parents and caregivers. Even after the recall, Fisher-Price continued to defend the product.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform began investigating the Rock ’n Play and other inclined sleepers in August 2019. It released its report ahead of a hearing it held this Monday, June 7, at which Mattel executives appropriately groveled but also denied they ever put profits over safety. (On June 3, the company recalled a model of its baby soothers after four infants died.)

In Your Face

What’s really shocking is the way Fisher-Price ignored so many in-your-face warnings that the Rock ’n Play wasn’t safe.

The tip-offs came soon after it debuted. Australian regulators admonished Fisher-Price that using it for sleeping “is at odds with widely accepted and promoted best practices.” When Canada told the company it could market the product only as a “soother” and not as a “sleeper,” it pulled it from the Great White North altogether. A U.K. midwives group issued a report advising against its use. In 2012, the company was informed that an infant had died using the Rock ’n Play.

Yet the report shows the company never took these alerts seriously and wasn’t spurred to conduct further safety tests. One explanation is that the company simply didn’t care about safety, only profits — despite its protestations this week. But the crisis has damaged its reputation. A company that disregards safety can’t really put itself out there as a safe space for infants and toddlers. NPR’s headline: “Fisher-Price Ignored Safety Warnings Even After Infants Started Dying, Report Finds.”

It was only in 2019 — when the safety commission told Fisher-Price it would issue a warning about the Rock ’n Play, and after negative media stories appeared (especially in Consumer Reports) — that Fisher-Price acted responsibly and recalled the product.

It shouldn’t have taken that much prodding.

Photo Credit: CPSC

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