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Recent tool recalls
Little Giant Stepladder and Stepstool Combination
Description: Switch-it Type 1A aluminum ladder with a 300-pound rating that can be extended from a 2-foot stepstool to a 6-foot step ladder with pairs of legs adjustable so the ladder can rest on stairs. The device has date stamps 10622S, 10623S, 10624S, 10721S and 10722S below orange locks on outer rails and part Number 15124s on the black-and-orange label on the back of the outer rails
Date of Recall: Dec. 11
Reason: Fall hazard created when inner side rails separate from the outer side rails; “severe injuries” reported
Place and date of sales: Home Depot stores and website from August to October
Quantity: 20,000
Price: $88
RIDGID Coil Roofing Nailers
(serial numbers ER114600001 through ER1217008424)
RIDGID Clipped Head Framing Nailer
(serial numbers ER114600001 through ER1215004424)
Description: Orange and gray pneumatic hand-held nailers used to secure fasteners into roofs and woodwork with RIDGID on the side
Date of recall: Dec. 6
Reason: Trigger assembly can malfunction and involuntarily discharge a fastener, posing a laceration or injury hazard
Place and date of sales: Home Depot stores and website January 2012 through September
Quantity: 10,000
Price: $230
Drill Master Cordless Drill, Model 96526
Description: Blue and black 9.2-volt rechargeable cordless drill with “Made in China” on yellow warning sticker
Date of recall: Nov. 27
Reason: Fire and burn hazard from trigger switch that can overheat; injury reported
Date and place of sales: From May 2008 at Harbor Freight Tools stores, catalog and website
Quantity: 100,000
Price: $27 to $30
Toro Z Master Riding Mowers
(Commercial 2000 Series with model number 74141 with serial numbers ranging from 312000101 to 312000784, model number 74143 with serial numbers ranging from 312000101 to 312000887, and model number 74145 with serial numbers ranging from 312000101 to 312001178)
Description: Red and black riding mowers with “Toro” and “2000 Series” printed on the side and “Z Master Commercial” on the front
Date of recall: Nov. 27
Reason: Potential fire hazard from traction drive belt wearing through fuel tank, causing leak; five injuries reported to manufacturer
Place and date of sale: Toro dealers from January 2010 through August
Quantity: 3,000
Price: $7,700 to $8,700
Honda portable generators
( EU2000i with serial numbers EAAJ-2260273 through EAAJ-2485025)
Description: Black, red or camouflage bodies slightly bigger than 2 cubic feet in size with “Honda” on the front in black letters
Date of recall: Nov. 15
Reason: Fire and burn hazard from leak in fuel hose
Place and date of sales: Honda dealers, sporting goods stores including Gander Mountain, True Value hardware stores and online from October 2011 through September
Quantity: 200,000
Price: $1,150 to $1,400
Sources: www.wemakeitsafer.com and the Consumer Product Safety Commission
Courtesy photos

When tools go BAD

Courtesy photos
Courtesy photos
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Courtesy photos

Item: An air compressor sold under the labels Craftsman, XCEL, Porter Cable and Pro-Air II can overheat and catch fire.

Item: Two styles of RIDGID nailers, one for framing and one for roofing, have triggers that can suddenly shoot nails without warning.

Item: Toro Z-Master Commercial Series 2000 Series ZRT riding lawnmowers have a traction drive belt that can wear through the mower’s fuel tank, causing it to leak gasoline.

Would you know if you have any of these potentially dangerous tools?

Maybe not, say experts in tool recalls.

“Most consumers do not hear about products that are recalled until long after the recalls,” says Jennifer Toney, chief executive officer of www.wemakeitsafer.com, a website that provides free information about tool recalls.

All the above tools were recalled by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, within the last six months – and all for hazards that could seriously injure a person or destroy property.

Few owners find out

Tool owners, especially if they have not returned registration or warranty cards, often won’t find out about the recall from the tool maker, she says, and the overall average for return and remedial action for consumer products, including tools and hardware, averages only between 20 percent and 30 percent.

That’s for a number of reasons, she says.

Although federal authorities have a fast-track process for recalls, many tools are used sporadically, so it might be years before enough defects come to light for a recall to be issued.

An example: a 19.2-volt Drill Master cordless drill sold by Harbor Freight since April of 2008 was not recalled until Nov. 27, 2012. Federal authorities say the company distributed 100,000 of the rechargeable drills, model number 96526. Their power switch can overheat, causing burns and a fire hazard, and injuries to users have been reported.

Second, many tools are bought second-hand, so consumers may not receive registration information, Toney says, and although it’s illegal to sell recalled items, sellers might not know of a tool recall.

And, because tools are considered specialty items, recalls may not make newspapers or the evening news, says Tim Carter, a former contractor who publishes tool and other recalls online at www.askthebuilder.com and in a free emailed newsletter.

“You might see it on television news, but they see it as small and inconsequential,” Carter says of a typical tool recall.

“The only other way I’m aware of is you might be able to go to (the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission or) the tool manufacturers’ websites and claw your way through, trying to find news about it, and that’s among the most frustrating thing you can do because those sites are not as user-friendly as they think they are.”

Where to find out

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t quite a number of widely sold tools that have recently been recalled. Last year, Toney said, about three dozen were listed in the “hardware and tools” and “home and garden” and other categories on the website.

And they are not just off-brand or inexpensive items.

The Toro zero-turn mowers, for example, sold for $7,700 and up and were found not only to leak gas if the belt wore through the fuel tank but also to pose a fire hazard.

Often, stores that have sold recalled products post notices about recalled products – the Menards on Illinois Road, for example, places the notices at the stock location or at the return counter just inside the doors. Lowe’s and Home Depot have notices on their websites.

Toney says consumers who use wemakeitsafer.com can check recalls going back to 1999 by name or type of tool. There is one section for tools, hardware and building supplies, and another for home and garden items, including mowers.

Users can get remedy information for recalled tools, check tools they are considering buying or selling and register tools they own so they will receive an alert if the tool is recalled. The site includes “as many pictures as possible” so if the tool comes in different styles, colors or packaging, it’s easier to match up, Toney says.

She says the number of recalls in the tools and hardware categories “had an enormous increase in the number of units recalled in 2012.”

The reason was not immediately clear, she says, but it may be because of a large number of units for a few items – for example, the recalled air compressors under the Craftsman and other labels amounted to 500,000 for a single recall.

Toney says some advanced services of the site, in operation since 2011, require consumer registration, but the company does not share or sell consumers’ information. Instead, it relies on advertising and selling data services to manufacturers, retailers and other businesses.

Register right away

Change, though, might be coming for the tool recall system. One problem critics point out is that mass dissemination of recall information to the public is not efficient because the information needs to reach, relatively speaking, only a small number of directly affected users.

“The answer isn’t telling the world there’s a recall in the hope of reaching the few people that own a product," Toney says. “It is about using technology to home in on just the people who need to know.”

One proposal is automatic registration at checkout when a purchase of a new tool is made. But so far, that has been elusive, Toney says, because credit card transactions generally don’t include detailed item information; customer information is subject to change; and merchants could find it cumbersome or costly to comply. There are also customer privacy concerns.

An article in the June issue of Popular Mechanics, “Why Product Recalls Make You Less Safe,” argues that the current system leads to “recall fatigue” – so many recalls get issued that consumers don’t pay attention to them any more.

But, Carter says, consumers need to be more vigilant about sending in warranty and registration cards for tools they buy.

They also need to check online services, including the federally maintained www.recalls.gov, which includes recalls regardless of which federal agency issues them, and www.saferproducts.gov, which includes a reporting feature. Mobile phone apps are available for some of the government sites.

“Any time I publish one of those recalls, I get emails just gushing, thanking me – ‘You saved my life, you saved my neighbor’s life because we had one in our garage.’ They’re so grateful,” Carter says.

salter@jg.net

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