WASHINGTON, D.C. – A fitness equipment manufacturer and a treadmill importer have agreed to pay a civil penalty to settle allegations that both companies failed to report a serious safety hazard with their treadmills to the federal government. Johnson Health Tech Co. Ltd., of Taiwan, and Horizon Fitness Inc., of DeForest, Wis., have agreed to pay a total of $500,000 for allegedly violating federal reporting requirements by not informing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in a timely manner about problems with the control panel on the treadmills (Settlement Agreement and Order PDF)
Between August 2000 and June 2001, Johnson Health Tech subcontracted to have motor control boards made for their treadmills, which were to be imported and distributed by Horizon Fitness. Between September 2000 and December 2001, Horizon imported over 10,000 treadmills that contained defective electronic control panels that caused the motor and walking belt to rapidly and unexpectedly accelerate. In some cases, the exercise machines also failed to stop when the safety key was activated.
Johnson and Horizon received 180 reports of “runaway” treadmills and safety stop-key failures between January 2001 and January 2002. Fifteen of these reports alleged injuries, including sprain, strains, a torn rotator cuff, bruises and serious friction burns. The companies never reported these incidents to CPSC. Instead, the companies attempted to correct these defects by redesigning the product on three occasions.
On January 14, 2002, three days after CPSC contacted Horizon to schedule an inspection of the company’s documents, a full report was made to CPSC. In April 2002, CPSC and Horizon announced a voluntary recall
of 5,900 defective “Paragon,” “Quantum” and “Omega” brand treadmills.
According to federal law, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are required to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information which reasonably supports the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial risk of injury to the public, presents an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or violates a federal safety standard.
In agreeing to settle the matter, Johnson Health Tech Co. and Horizon Fitness Inc. deny that the treadmills were defective and that they violated the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act.