The safety of a product is becoming more important in the design process. Safety regulations and certifications have pushed safety considerations earlier into the design process. “When I started in design, safety was an afterthought. Companies would move their products into manufacturing, and then someone one would bring safety into the mix,” Rich Adams, senior vice president for electrical business at Intertek, told Design News. “If any safety issues were discovered, you had to push the design back. It could be an expensive process to bring everything into compliance.”
Adams noted that safety considerations have changed. "We try to bring safety in much earlier than before,” he told us. “Plus, safety has become international so the design engineers have to attend seminars on safety, and safety has to show up in the design from the beginning.”
Intertek is a third-party certification company that reviews products for safety as well as other regulations. Intertek looks at everything from toys and automobiles to aircraft and pharmaceuticals. “We’re a testing laboratory. We do the evaluation. If the company decides to go forward with a product, they ask us for a certification mark,” said Adams. “We certify the product to the safety compliance standard.”
Intertek examines products for compliance across a variety of government standards. “There are more standards now. The standards have to keep up with changes in technologies,” said Adams. “The standards were designed to guard against a risk of fire, a risk of shock, or risk against mechanical hazards -– sharp points or moving parts.”
Pushing safety earlier in the design process
Adams noted that he has seen a change in the design process in recent years, namely that design engineers have to consider safety at the earliest stage of product design. “Over the past 20 years, safety compliance has moved into the design process. You’re looking at redesign or retooling if the product is found to be out of compliance,” said Adams. He noted that pushing safety concerns to a late stage in the design process slows product development. “The significant part is the delay to market. The sooner we’re involved in the design process the quicker the product gets to market,” said Adams.
He said he believes the most efficient way to address safety is from the very beginning. “We want it as early as possible. It’s painful to find it on the back end. Bringing up safety early creates a true partnership and a more harmonious relationship between product design and compliance,” said Adams. “We don’t want the safety process to be seen as a barrier in getting the product to market. The earlier safety is designed in, the fewer delays.”