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Traceability Producers must, where practical, also mark their products and packaging with a product reference, batch number and the producer’s details so that the product’s origin can be identified should a product recall be required. Batch marking is particularly beneficial to the manufacturer. If it is found that an isolated batch of court shoes were fitted with faulty heels, it would be considerably less costly to recall that batch than the entire season’s production. Knowing the product’s origin will also help to identify if there are any other batches on the market being sold by other distributors. Distributors should also keep records which will help them trace the origin of products which they sell so that safety issues can be resolved at source.

Producers must ensure testing is carried out, with particular attention given to those areas where a fault could give rise to a safety issue. The main areas for footwear include: • Slip resistance • Sole bond strength • Heel attachment and heel strength (impact and fatigue resistance) • Top piece attachment • Strap and fastening strength • Hazardous substances, for example Chromium VI, nickel, PCPs and azo dyes.

This list is by no means exhaustive and each style should be judged individually.

Testing must be carried out at the sample stage to identify potential problems prior to production and at stages during production as part of an ongoing quality control process, to demonstrate due diligence. At all stages, full documentation of testing must be kept. It should include details of the product, its source and test results. Records also need to document unsatisfactory results and all actions that have been taken to rectify the problem. These could be a quality improvement in the manufacturing process, remedial action (such as repair) or complete withdrawal from sale and a product recall.

Record keeping should also include a register of safety-related complaints, how these have been investigated, the results and any appropriate actions that have been passed to distributors.

Safety-related complaints Distributors have a significant responsibility to record and pass back to producers details of any safety-related complaints. It is absolutely essential that all retail staff, including those at shop floor level, understand that a safety-related complaint is one where the wearer was or could have been injured. For example, when a wearer returns a pair of shoes where one of the heels has broken but the wearer was unhurt, the retailer offers a refund and the complaint goes no further. Following this, however, other shoes of the same style fail and several wearers are injured. The retailer dealing with the first complaint would be regarded as negligent. An investigation of the original complaint should have been made, as this may have resulted in a product recall and the other injuries could have been avoided.


What happens if a product is found to be unsafe? If investigations of safety-related complaints and/or testing reveal that a product is inherently unsafe, it is required that the producer or the distributor will inform the local enforcement authorities (in the UK, Trading Standards). The authorities must be informed of the nature of the problem and what the proposed course of action is. The producer and distributor are then required to co-operate with any requests, recommendations or enforcements that are made by the authorities.

It should be noted that not all safety-related complaints should be reported to the authorities. If it can be shown that the risk is limited to an isolated incident or limited number of identifiable products and the risk has been dealt with, then notification may not be necessary. It may be prudent, however, to discuss the issue with the authorities if there is any doubt.

Voluntary action, mutually agreed between the supplier and the authorities will always be the preferred course of action. Indeed, many suppliers will already have a good system in place to deal with corrective actions, such as product recalls.

The European Commission supplies a guide to corrective actions and recalls. Where necessary, enforcement authorities now have powers to enforce a series of measures depending on the seriousness of the risk: • Suspension Notice – this places a temporary ban on the product being placed on the market while investigations are being carried out

• Requirement to mark or warn – the authorities can order that the product is marked with suitable warnings to the consumer against certain risks

• Withdrawal Notice – this permanently prevents the product being placed onto the market (or further being supplied when it is already on sale)

• Recall Notice – known as a last resort power, this requires the supplier to organise the return of the products which have already been sold to consumers

• Forfeiture or destruction – used in extreme cases for dangerous products, the courts can order that products are confiscated or destroyed.

The information given in this article is based on the interpretations and opinions of SA

TRA and does not constitute any legal opinions or legal advice.

We recommend that readers seek professional legal advice before taking any actions based on the subject matter discussed here.

For further information, please contact

Lisa Merchant – Telephone (01536) 410000 or email

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