Monday, March 14, 2005
Paper Shredders and Baby Bath Seats
A friend of mine, from time to time, will forward me articles on alleged defects in consumer products, and the bizarre injuries that can result. Or which emphasize how, even with an infrequency of injury, some people will argue that otherwise useful products be banned because of the potential for misuse.
I had anticipated that I would not want to leave a baby or small child in the vicinity of an operational paper shredder, for example, but it hadn't occurred to me that a puppy might be inclined to try to lick the shredding mechanism. (Graphic description of injury omitted, but dog lovers: take note.)
But it certainly had occurred to me that the mere fact that a parent uses a baby bath seat does not mean that the parent can ignore the baby, or use that as an excuse ot leave a baby unattended in a bathtub. While I will grant that if you are holding a baby in a bathtub, you are necessarily giving the child direct attention that might not follow if the baby is in a bath seat, not all parents give the baby that level of attention even if the baby is lying in a sink or bathtub. And I haven't personally found that using a bath seat is cause for giving a baby any less attention than any other method of bathing. Bathtub accidents, unfortunately, will happen no matter what associated devices are or are not used. And not one of the cited incidents involved active parental attention directed toward the baby in the bath seat.
Granted, some devices (such as "lawn darts") seem so poorly conceived, and the risk of harm from misuse so great, that you can understand why they should be pulled from the market. And granted, the picture is confused by insurance company propaganda - false stories about people suing after they injure themselves by using a lawn mower as a hedge trimmer, or setting up a ladder on a melting pile of manure, or the pretense that an absurd warning label on a toilet brush is anything more than evidence of manufacture in a non-English-speaking nation or the incompetence of in-house counsel - meant to suggest that manufacturers of perfectly safe products are being sued because of non-foreseeable incidents of absurd misuse. (And it isn't just about products - the same phenomenon is displayed by the Terry Rakoltas, Tipper Gores, and "Parents Television Council"-type organizations, who want to protect me from what they regard as "indecency".)
There is a point where I want the regulators, or those who lobby the regulators to "protect me", to extend at least a modicum of trust in my intelligence.