Tag Archive: safety


Let’s be clear: This is not how you make a warning label when you want it to be followed; this is how you make a warning label when you’re trying to avoid a lawsuit without regard to the well being of your users (or maybe if a government agency is requiring it).

There is a warning label similar to this on my son’s Graco combination changing table/playpen. I was looking for the safe load weight (to ensure that the changing table would not give out below him), and, much to my dismay, this information was not provided on the warning label.

What was present on this warning label, however, was a warning to parents to not leave their kid in the play pen with the changing table attached or else the child could strangle themselves. Now, let’s examine the steps needed for a child to strangle themselves in this manner…The child would have to:

  1. Stand in the playpen
  2. Reach outside of the playpen, and depress the two locking pins on the changing table supports (which is difficult for me to do)
  3. Lift the posts of the changing table portion out of the holes in the playpen
  4. Place their head over the edge of the playpen
  5. Replace the changing table portion poles into the corresponding holes in the playpen

Compare that to the steps needed to exceed the weight limit:

  1. Place a kid who is too heavy onto the changing table

When creating warnings, companies need to figure out what questions the customers have and what actions the customers are likely to perform incorrectly (which cannot be corrected with design).

Safety is too important to leave to poorly formatted warning labels.

That’s right. We can prevent as many as 15,000 house fires from occurring every single year, and I just can’t get myself to believe that the solution can be too difficult to devote our time and energy into it.

So, what causes all of these fires which devastate family after family every year?

Dryer lint.

It’s not hard to have a fire because of dryer lint. All you have to do is wash a bunch of towels and forget to clean the lint trap.

Realistically, it is one of the easiest ways to burn your house down.

How is this still ok? How have we not fixed this yet?

I think the real problem here is that we’ve learned to accept the status quo and not expect anything better.

Let’s face it, if the dryer was invented today, it would either have a system that would dump the lint itself, or it would have lights, bells, and whistles to make sure that we didn’t go two loads without emptying the lint trap!!!

We need to be careful to not let the legacy problems/safety issues/usability issues of yesterday exist in today’s products! It’s the easy way out (“It’s always been that way”), but it’s not the right way to do business.

…and put a dang lock-out on that dryer so you can’t start it twice in a row without emptying the lint trap or a pressure transducer so the dryer will shut itself off if there is too much pressure before the filter!

Traffic Lights

Is there any rhyme or reason to the left turn lane?!?!

There is a light by my house that operates as follows:

  • Light turns green for both parallel directions (we’ll call them North and South)
  • Light turns red for North, but stays green for South.
  • Light turns red for South, and the green left turn arrow for North turns on.

I know it’s a little confusing, but stick with me…

This is what I experience every day in the left turn lane coming from the North:

  • Light turns green, car in the left-turn lane moves into the intersection
  • Light turns red, car that is in the middle of the intersection gets frantic and tries to turn left as quickly as possible
  • Cross traffic does not stop (since it is still a green light for them), collision almost happens!!!
  • Car in the middle of the intersection finally squeals their tires and makes a lightning fast left turn (I assume they’re perspiring profusely at this point),  then green arrow lights up, unbeknownst to the car that just raced through the left turn, and I proceed through the intersection calmly.

Now, since I make this trip daily, I’ve got it down:

  • Light turns green, stay put (and tolerate honking behind me, even though the oncoming traffic is unyielding)
  • Light turns red, continue to stay put
  • Green arrow lights up, continue through intersection safety.

Is there no safety standard for traffic lights? How is this intersection (where I witness multiple “near misses” everyday) allowed to exist?!?! Where is the consistency in how we handle the left turn lane?

Car Seats

“4 out of 5 car seats are installed incorrectly”

That statistic is widely proclaimed, and it should make you FUME on the inside. The problem is that, all too often, we blame the users of the car seats for the car seat’s incorrect installation, and we don’t blame the car seat/vehicle manufacturers for making something that 80% of the population cannot install correctly (even with their best intentions)!

Heck, if Hewlett Packard or Apple made computers that 80% of users couldn’t operate correctly, they would be ridiculed and go out of business!

Parents.com published an article on the 8 most common mistakes made when installing car seats. I may be as bold as to say that these can and should be designed out.

For example, just to elaborate on a couple:

  • Mistake #1 is that the straps which hold the baby seat to the car’s seat are installed too loosely. I’ve recently installed one of these baby seats and I literally stood over the baby seat in the back seat (awkwardly, as I am 6’1″ and not very compact) and tugged on the belt to tighten it, and I still don’t know if I really feel that it’s tight enough (and I work out almost daily!). Why have we not yet incorporated ratchet straps in the belts (or something to that extent) that would allow someone without appreciable physical strength to tighten the straps tighter than I was able to with the current belts.
  • Mistake #2 is that the harness holding the baby in is set too loosely. We currently have devices that automatically tighten and latch when they need to…they’re called seat belts. Furthermore, if something similar to typical seat belts were utilized, it would be easier to load the child in the seat (as you wouldn’t have to bend the child into a pretzel to get their arms under the straps). Why haven’t we yet incorporated something to this extent in car seats?

Yes, some of these suggestions would make the car seat more expensive and some would make it heavier, but, looking at the statistics of how many car seats are installed incorrectly and how many children die each year in car accidents, I think a car seat redesign is worthy of discussion.