The largest product recall in Australian history has focused on the replacement of Takata airbags – used in a number of vehicle makes and models. Voluntary recalls were issued worldwide in 2009 but were made compulsory more recently as the extent and nature of the problem became better known.
The issue relates to a propellant used in the airbags, which has been found to use excessive explosive force, rupturing the case and firing metal fragments at the vehicle occupants.
This has led to at least 24 deaths and around 300 serious injuries worldwide – including one fatality and one serious injury here in Australia.
The mammoth recall will see one in four cars on the road across the country have their airbags replaced by the end of December 2020.
According to the ACCC, 2.5 million faulty airbags have been replaced in 1.6 million vehicles in Australia since 2009.
That rate has increased sharply in 2018 since the recall was made compulsory, with over 350,000 such airbags replaced in the September quarter alone – equating to more than 3,000 replacements every single day.
Despite the progress, the competition regulator noted there are an estimated 1.4 million airbags still needing replacement in around 1.2 million vehicles – including around 12,000 so-called “alpha” airbags, the type identified as being most at risk.
The full list of vehicles subject to the recall can be found on the ACCC’s Product Safety Australia website.
Workplace health and safety risk
The issue also has the potential to impact a huge number of Australian businesses, given the number of employees required to travel as part of their job.
Such travel can include either company cars or, more commonly, employee’s own vehicles.
According to the ATO, more than 3.6 million Australian taxpayers lodged claims for work-related car expenses in 2016-17.
While not specifically related to airbags, Safe Work Australia recorded 76 worker fatalities in vehicle crashes in 2016, including 28 who were occupants of “light vehicles” (i.e. cars, vans and utes).