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Product Safety Auditing

The design and product development process is the single most effective and important aspect of product safety. The primary concern of the designer should be to develop “reasonably safe” products that are reliable and maintainable. Besides reducing product liability, proper product design helps to improve customer satisfaction and reduce warranty expenses. The goal of a product safety audit is to identify design defects, which comprise a high percentage of product liability claims. Compliance with government or industry voluntary standards constitutes design minimums and may not be sufficient to ensure a “reasonably safe” product. Furthermore, in addition to ascertaining the potential hazards of a product when used as intended, auditing should attempt to identify foreseeable misuses of a product as well. In addition, auditing applies not only to the product itself, but also to accompanying instructions and warnings, though these should only be used when a hazard cannot be eliminated or guarded against. Some common causes of product design liability are: concealed or non-obvious hazards, lack of appropriate safety devices, inadequate structural design, failure to consider foreseeable misuses, inadequate warnings/instructions and failure to comply with relevant safety standards. Strategies for minimizing these defects include: incorporating guarding and interlocks, structural analysis and testing and comparison with safety standards and applicable regulatory guidelines. An effective product safety audit can identify many potential hazards, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of injuries and safety recalls.