Richard O. Simpson, First U.S. Product Safety Czar, Dies at 93

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Richard O. Simpson, a self-made Republican businessman who as the primary chairman of the federal Client Product Security Fee aggressively protected the American public from shopping for thousands and thousands of dangerous items, died on July 21 in DeLand, Fla., north of Orlando. He was 93.

His loss of life, in a hospital close to his residence, was confirmed by his daughter Karen Simpson Tweedie.

Mr. Simpson was appointed to the fee by President Richard M. Nixon in 1973, shortly after it was created by a Democratic Congress. He instantly made the company’s work broadly clear to the general public.

He was so assertive that when the surgeon common declared that smoking was a well being hazard, Mr. Simpson proposed banning the sale of cigarettes altogether, a prerogative that he later acknowledged was past the fee’s jurisdiction.

Nonetheless, throughout his three-year tenure, the fee declared some 25 million gadgets unsafe and demanded that they be recalled, repaired or changed. They included flammable mattresses, TV antennas that might result in electrocution and tablet bottles with out child-resistant caps.

“He was the primary and better of the quite a few heads of the fee, and he was nonetheless monitoring and pushing the fee from his retirement,” the buyer advocate Ralph Nader mentioned by cellphone.

“He believed in legislation enforcement,” Mr. Nader added. “He didn’t have his antenna out for the company lobbyists, like most new regulatory companies.”

Mr. Simpson’s problem was to stability “unreasonable danger” with the impression that retooling a product would have on the monetary value each to shoppers and producers and to the financial system extra broadly. A regulatory resolution regarding a product may lead to halted manufacturing and job layoffs and carry “the potential for trade dislocation, the lack of alternative by shoppers and the doubtless impression on costs,” as Mr. Simpson put it.

Acknowledging at a Congressional finances listening to that his company had a “horrifying quantity of authority,” he declared that its energy needed to be exercised prudently.

“For those who tried to construct each home so it couldn’t burn,” he informed The Christian Science Monitor, “you would possibly effectively triple the associated fee — and also you may not wish to dwell in it.”

On one birthday, his spouse gave him a gift that exemplified the potential for overreach: a toothpick with each ends safely swaddled in cotton. The accompanying card learn: “Your birthday present has been accepted by the U.S. Security Fee.”

Richard Olin Simpson was born on March 7, 1930, in Independence, Mo., the sixth of 9 youngsters of Clyde and Lily (Holler) Simpson. His father was a carpenter, however the household was impoverished. Mr. Simpson recalled having to attend in line to gather welfare funds.

He was the primary member of his household to complete highschool. After enlisting within the Navy and serving throughout the Korean Battle, he graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in electrical engineering from the College of California, Berkeley, in 1956. He briefly studied legislation there earlier than enrolling in graduate engineering programs at Stanford College.

Mr. Simpson began an engineering agency that specialised in naval electronics and weapon methods; turned vice chairman of the Rucker Firm, an electronics agency, which launched a protecting gadget that guarded in opposition to electrocution; and ran an engineering companies agency. In 1969, he joined the U.S. Commerce Division, the place he helped form security requirements for kids’s sleepwear.

He was appearing assistant secretary for science and expertise when he was appointed chairman of the buyer fee.

With its first vote, the fee shocked producers by refusing to delay the efficient date of a typical for mattress flammability.

It banned the rear step on tricycles — bikes rating on the prime of its shopper product hazard index — to maintain different youngsters from hitching rides and falling off; regulated butane cigarette lighters that produced flames the size of three cigars; and urged the recall of highly effective adhesives that glued the person’s fingers collectively.

His dedication to child-resistant caps on medication containers was private. Years earlier, two of his youngsters needed to have their stomachs pumped after digesting too many candy-flavored aspirin tablets whereas enjoying physician.

“We’ve got taken an company born in controversy, throughout a interval of very low authorities credibility, and, by abolishing the restraints that secrecy imposes, have created an company that folks can imagine in,” he informed The New York Instances in 1975.

Mr. Simpson left the fee in early 1976 after Gerald R. Ford had succeeded Nixon as president, annoyed with political interference by the White Home over employees appointments and delays over whether or not he could be reappointed. (The present chairman is Alexander Hoehn-Saric, who was nominated by President Biden.)

Mr. Simpson later returned to the non-public sector — recommending that the product trade police itself — and wrote a e book, “The Quest for Safer Merchandise” (2016).

He married Patricia Ann Kramer in 1949; she died in 2003. Along with his daughter Karen, he’s survived by his youngsters Dianne Tuohy, Norma Simpson Bufford and Richard and David Simpson; 13 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

As a reminder of the balancing act between shoppers and the broader public curiosity that each fee resolution entailed, Mr. Simpson’s clutter-free desk on the company was dominated by a single decoration. Just like the toothpick, it was a present from his spouse: A lead sculpture of a boy, crouching, making ready to spring right into a handstand.

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