By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When a company is notified a consumer has a significant problem or is injured by a product, it’s supposed to tell the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan has noticed a disturbing increase in the number of businesses busted by the feds for not reporting. It could could actually be putting you and your family at risk!

Federal investigators took photos of the weed whacker that injured Bob Dolan.

“It went slamming into my shin and went right through my jeans,” said Dolan.

Splitting his skin and leaving him bleeding. We learned bob was one of 158 people injured by the now recalled weed trimming device.

The feds say the manufacturer “knowingly failed to report several safety defects or hazards immediately to the CPSC as required by federal law”.

As a result, the weed whacking company was whacked with a fine of just under a million dollars!

“it’s pretty upsetting when I hear that they just kind of ignored it,” said Dolan.

In fact the number of companies penalized for not reporting safety defects is growing.

In 2010 the CPSC had to fine two companies more than a half million dollars. But in 2011 that number increased to ten companies and the fines totaled more than four million dollars.

It includes manufacturers of defective buggies, high end refrigerators, exercise equipment, office equipment and draw string sweatshirts.

“It greatly concerns us when injuries pile up and we’re not told,” said Scott Wolfson with the CPSC.

Federal law requires when a company learns a product fails to comply with safety standards, contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard or creates an unreasonable risk for serious injury or death it must immediately inform the CPSC.

“Companies struggle with when to report to the CPSC,” said Attorney Christie Grymes Thompson.

Grymes Thompson, who represents product manufacturers, says companies have to weigh factors like, was a consumer misusing something? Or is there a pattern?

“If the risk is maybe a little bump, probably wouldn’t trigger an obligation to report, but if the risk is cutting off a body part or a concussion or something that’s more significant then that would likely trigger an obligation to report,” said Grymes Thompson.

But officials with CPSC says there’s a simple way to deal with the confusion.

“If in doubt, report,” said Wolfson.


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