Written by the Cowbucker Account Team
Fisher-Price, one of America’s most highly recognized children’s toy manufacturer, has been facing major backlash following infant fatalities from the use of their Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. The product was first introduced in 2009 and received its first report of an infant’s death just two years later.
On April 5, 2019, after receiving reports of 10 new infant deaths since 2015, the company decided to issue a warning for their product with the following additional statement:
“A child fatality is an unimaginable tragedy.
Fisher-Price has a long, proud tradition of prioritizing safety as the cornerstone of our mission. Generations of parents have trusted us for almost 90 years to provide safe products for their children. We are there with you from the moment you bring your child home and take our responsibility for product safety very seriously.
Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Fisher-Price have jointly issued an alert warning parents and caregivers to discontinue use of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper when infants begin to roll over. To ensure a safe sleep environment for infants, we remind parents and caregivers to follow all safety warnings included with the product: always use the provided restraints, always place infants on their backs to sleep, and make sure that no pillows, blankets or extra padding are placed in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper meets all applicable safety standards, including those of the international standards organization, known as ASTM International, and is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
Fisher-Price and everyone one of our employees take the responsibility of being part of your family seriously, and we are committed to earning that trust every day.”
A few days later the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged parents to stop using Fisher-Price’s “Rock ‘n Play” Sleeper via Twitter.
It has since been noted that between the years of 2011 and 2018 there have been a reported 32 deaths involving children under 3 months from this product. The ultimate cause of death within these infants was due to the lack of restraint causing the child to roll over and suffocate. Fisher-Price stated that the rocker was not meant to be used for infants any older than 3 months, or if they already had the ability to roll over. The company also states on their packaging in the cover photo that the product can be used for overnight sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) disagrees with this claim, and does not recommend this fastening, rocking product for routine sleep. In fact, many doctors from the AAP have come forth and states that infants younger than 3 months should sleep on a firm, flat surface on their back away from soft bedding, toys, pillows and blankets.
Three days following the CPSC alert, Fisher-Price officially recalled their 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play and released the following statement:
“A child fatality is an unimaginable tragedy.
For almost 90 years, Fisher-Price has made the safety of children our highest priority.
In recent days, questions have been raised about the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. We stand by the safety of our products. However, due to reported incidents in which the product was used contrary to the safety warnings and instructions, we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in partnership with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Fisher-Price has a long, proud tradition of prioritizing safety as our mission. We at Fisher-Price want parents around the world to know that we have every intention of continuing that tradition.”
Sound familiar? Much of the information in their first statement is used in this recall statement, even using the exact same first line. Fisher-Price’s PR team might have been satisfied with their crisis communication strategy, but affected parents are not.
Many of those affected have conducted interviews with national news corporations explaining their frustration with Fisher-Price’s inability to take responsibility. These parents are refusing to take blame for the death of their children, and rightly so. How can a company that claims to prioritize safety continue to ignore the reports for more than eight years?
As PR professionals, we know that nobody is perfect, but we can all use Fisher-Price as a learning experience. The company needs to focus on reestablishing their commitment to safety and include explicit safety instructions to prevent occurrences like this from happening again. Although Fisher-Price is not alone in producing products like the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, their misfortune will hopefully lead to safer products for children.