Bob Confer was at his North Tonawanda manufacturing plant last month when a call came in. A child had stuck his arm into a ventilation opening in a set of Confer Plastics pool steps and gotten stuck.
Aside from some scratches, the child got out OK. But what if they hadn't? What if the child had been underwater, unable to breathe and unable to get free?
Confer didn't want to find out.
Confer Plastics had never heard an issue with the steps before, and it had been on the market for five years. There had never been a recall at Confer Plastics, but Confer decided the stakes were high enough to issue the company's first.
"It's worth it if it keeps a kid from getting hurt," Confer said.
The next business day, Confer contacted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to start the process. The same day, a team at the plant devised a plastic mesh piece that homeowners could screw to the inside of their pool staircases to cover the vents. Instead of taking the stairs back, Confer will provide the free "recall kits" to product owners.
The CPSC looked at Confer's fix and approved mold modifications for future production runs, then helped develop and release the recall alert.
In the week since the alert went out, Confer has received requests for 1,000 recall kits. Each recall kit costs Confer about $30 to produce. There are about 100,000 staircases out there.
The vents in question are used by most manufacturers, to keep water circulating and prevent algae buildup. Confer has eliminated the vents on the stairs going forward and has urged other pool and spa manufacturers to do the same.
As for products already on shelves, Confer is swapping out the recalled stairs for the newly produced models without vents.
"It's the end of the season and there are very few in stock at our distributors which makes it easy to manage," Confer said.
The affected product is the gray and beige plastic Confer Curve pool staircase, including the 3- and 4- step bases and an add-on. To request a recall kit, call Confer Plastics, 800-635-3213 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit ConferPlastics.com and click on “Curve Recall” for more information.