April 27, 2021 — Peloton is pushing back against a U.S. government warning about the safety of its pricey home-use treadmill.
Experts wonder if it’s a case of dangerous design flaws — or the need for individual users to be accountable.
Peloton is the undisputed star of the “connected fitness” movement. The company is most known for its high-tech exercise bike, which connects riders to classes and users around the world while developing cult-like dedication.
Shares of the company’s stock fell more than 7% after the government’s “urgent warning,” which advised owners of the company’s Tread+ treadmill to stop using it.
At least one child has been killed and others have been injured beneath the machines, as have some pets, the consumer Product Safety Commission said. The commission considers the product “a serious risk to children for abrasions, fractures and death,” it said in a news release.
The agency released a video of a child being trapped briefly underneath one of the machines.
The agency knows of 39 such incidents, it said in its April 17 warning. “In light of multiple reports of children becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the product, CPSC urges consumers with children at home to stop using the product immediately.”
At least one incident happened while a parent was running on the treadmill, the agency said. “Reports of a pet and objects being sucked beneath the Tread+ also suggest possible harm to the user if the user loses balance as a result.”
Company Disputes Warning
In a release, Peloton said it was “troubled” by the commission’s warning because it is “inaccurate and misleading.” Owners have no reason to stop using the Tread+ “as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed. Children under 16 should never use the Tread+, and members should keep children, pets, and objects away from the Tread+ at all times.”
Peloton’s classes now include “additional safety messages.” They remind users to remove the safety key and store it somewhere safe from children, the company said.
Specifically, Peloton took issue with the video released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which showed a child underneath a treadmill. The company said that if the safety key had been used properly, that could have avoided the "kind of incident that this video depicts."
"The Tread+ includes safety warnings and instructions in several places, including in the user manual, in a safety card left on top of the Tread+ tray on delivery, and on the product itself," Peloton said.
Design Issues, Recall Standoff
The commission wants Peloton to recall the device, which retails for about $4,300. (Peloton’s newer $2,500 model doesn’t seem to be involved in the dispute.)
The company has refused to do so.
CEO John Foley wrote and thanked users for their own “helpful tips,” like working out while children nap, having a sitter during workouts, or using gates to keep kids and pets away.
At issue is the treadmill’s height and belt. The agency is looking into possible hazard concerns.
Before this controversy, the Peloton Tread+ (previously called the Peloton Tread) was the top-rated treadmill by Consumer Reports. The nonprofit watchdog gave its top score for user safety, noting the stop button, how quickly the belt stops when the safety key is pulled, and more.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is limited by laws that make action difficult without a company’s permission, said William Wallace, manager of safety policy for Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports says that the commission can’t order a recall without going to court.
Earlier, in a separate case, Peloton issued a voluntary recall on first-generation pedals on its exercise bikes bought between 2013 and 2016, cooperating with the commission. The pedals had a risk of failure that caused harm to about 100 Peloton owners who were then able to request replacement parts from the company.
Treadmill Safety Tips
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 22,500 treadmill injuries in 2019, with about 2,000 of them involving kids under 8 years of age. Between 2018 and 2020, 17 treadmill-related deaths were reported, Consumer Reports found. It recommends the following for safety.
- Keep children away.
- Turn it off when not in use.
- Use the safety key so the treadmill will stop if you fall.
- Don’t stand on the treadmill when you turn it on.
- Let it stop before you get off.