Following a consultation in 2018, the US
and Canada have published a joint guidance document to help consumer product
manufacturers integrate human factor principles into their product development
Published by the US Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada, the document provides industry with
comprehensive guidance on how to apply human factor principles with the aim of
reducing the occurrence of negative product-related incidents. By lowering the
level of injuries etc., it is anticipated the potential for enforcement actions
and lawsuits will also be mitigated.
The guidance document defines ‘human
factors’ as the study of how consumers use products. When developing products,
manufacturers don’t always take into account the different experiences and
abilities of the individual consumer. When this is combined with the varying
uses to which the product can be put, it can create unnecessary risk.
The guidance document states the main
benefit of considering human factors during a product’s development are:
- Improved usability and acceptance
- Increased safety
- Reduced life cycle costs and risks
- Reduced support costs
According to the guidance document, human
factors should be considered during the following development stages:
- Product planning
- Idea and concept generation
- Design and development
- Testing and validation
Stages three to six are principally
concerned with risk reduction.
The authors of the document consider the
product planning stage as particularly important as, by identifying the target
market at this point and defining how the company plans to handle consumer
complaints, alongside other aspects of the planning process, will make correcting
problems easier when they are identified during the later stages.
The guidance document also suggests
designers consider and evaluate potential misuses of the product during the
earliest stages to try to implement mitigation strategies. Human factors should
be included in the testing and validation stage, something that Health Canada
and the US CPSC indicate should be repeated throughout the product design
process. It also suggests these evaluations should not be confined to the
Manufacturers are also advised to consider
human factors during production in order to ensure safety is maintained and
hazards are decreased, both in relation to product use and the safety of
assembly line workers.
The joint CPSC and Health Canada document
is not an official rule or regulation but both organizations believe conforming
to its suggestions will help to create safer products that are less susceptible
to recalls, thus minimizing the potential damage to brand reputation and any
tangible negative monetary impact on the company such as penalties, protracted
legal costs, etc..
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