Adonis Diaries

“How Human Factors get involved in the safety and health of end users?”

Posted on: May 24, 2009

Article #10, April 7, 2005

 “How Human Factors get involved in the safety and health of end users?”

There is an issue that many in the Third World consumers are not aware of:  mainly the legal liability of manufacturer and system designers of any faulty designed product.

This product liability concept has evolved greatly since the first quarter of last century through court rulings of various complaints from plaintiffs due to either physical or mental injuries that users suffered in different aspects of product usage.

Nowadays, in modern and developed States the burden of proof for defective products is on the manufacturers, distributors and deep pocket companies with financial strength and who are directly or indirectly related to any defective product reaching the consumers.

Another legal victory to consumers is that designers have the responsibility to foresee most operations not intended specifically for the product but that a few consumers might operate the product for different usage and end up being injured.

Although the product was well designed for its intended use most probably it was less than performing in safety and health for other possible usages.

A range-oven is intended for cooking but when the range door is left open and thus facilitating the curiosity of a toddler to step on the door, then the overturn of the range can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Designers are thus asked to foresee this usage of the range door and design in a counter balance or also designing in a preventing obstacle to a toddler inserting his hands inside the range to satisfy his unlimited curiosity.

When I was preparing my doctoral dissertation in the late 90’s there was a defensive attitude to affixing warning signs and warning pictorials on products and on instruction manuals.

The rational for this wave for displaying warning signs was because if companies failed in posting messages on functions that may cause injuries, then their successes in legal defenses were next to nil and compromises with plaintiffs outside the court system were considered less costly.

Posting warnings gave the companies a chance to defend their cases if their manufacturing processes are well documented and safety procedures are well managed.

There are well established consumer products like TV, dishwashers, washing machines, video recorders, cellular phones and so on. 

If you consider the statistics of the actual injuries data in hospitals versus the expected frequencies of the injuries by common people you will be surprised of the high discrepancy and under valuation of the risks involved.

People think that the design of these well established products can be guessed by common sense that people acquire through experience.

A few simple experiments can prove that common sense should be the last resort method to designing.

The opinions and answers for specific design arrangements and best alternatives are as varied as users are, even among the expert designers of these products.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2009
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