Tragedy struck last week in Washington as the nation’s sole full-time toy tester, Robert L. Hundemer, retired from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Hundemer unwittingly became the symbol of the CPSC’s inability to ensure the safety of the nation’s toys when, during Congressional testimony, CPSC Chair Nancy Nord repeatedly referred to him as “Bob, our small parts guy.”
Bob, our small parts guy, came to the CPSC after he was fired from a chain saw manufacturing company for reporting a safety defect. He became the nation’s full time toy tester shortly after writing the regulations that prevent accidental chain saw decapitations.
“I can’t have knowledge something is unsafe and not say anything,” he said.
What he liked most about working in government was that he could speak his mind.
“When I saw something I didn’t like, I could say something,” he said. “I could do that without fear of getting my head chopped off.”
He also liked being in the business of helping to save lives. He’s worked on voluntary standards and regulations that have helped prevent children from getting killed or hurt using baby walkers, cribs and trampolines. He spent his last few weeks at the CPSC investigating the death of an infant in a crib. Almost all the deaths he has investigated over the years stay with him. He can recall in vivid detail autopsy photos he saw 20 years ago.
Preventing deaths and injuries is what kept him and his colleagues going through years of budget cuts.
“We didn’t say, ‘We don’t have any money. We don’t give a damn.’ We said, ‘We don’t have any money, how do we do it anyway?’ ” he said.
Bob is a shining example for all civil servants. He will be sorely missed.
Nancy Nord has announced that Bob’s responsibilities will be assumed by other Commission staffers, but we think the world’s wealthiest nation can afford at least one full-time toy tester. We here at The Consumerist know that Nancy considers the safety of America’s children to be her foremost concern, which is why we heartily nominate our own Senior Editor, Meghann Marco (pictured right, inspecting toys,) to fill Bob’s lead-detecting shoes. She always takes gravity seriously, even before a toy is dropped. Her sharp eye is eager to protect us from the most dangerous playthings American toy designers can order from China. Watch for her application, Chairwoman Nord.
Goodbye to Bob [Washington Post]
(Photo: Annys Shin/Washington Post)