I’ve long been interested in ‘good’ design, i.e., designing systems and products for success not failure. How many times have you had to use a device that was designed for failure? Take for example the keypad at the Automatic Teller/Banking Machines. I used one recently where the first line of digits (1, 2, 3) was hidden by a rubber mat intended to shield the code from prying eyes. Being busy and agitated, I didn’t notice and kept keying in the wrong code. That was a nonfatal failure but other bad design can cost lives.
The US National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) is co-sponsoring an August 2012 workshop on designing nanomaterials and safety at the University of Albany in New York state (from the July 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk),
A traditional hierarchy of controls to reduce occupational risks may be applied to advanced nanomaterials. The hierarchy of controls starts with elimination or substitution of hazards. Preventing a potential risk to workers from a particular advanced nanomaterial by eliminating that potential hazard at the design phase of development is the most effective means of risk management and can support the safe progression of nanotechnology from simple to more advanced nanomaterials. Prevention of harm through safe design includes: (1) avoiding incorporating hazardous elements such as lead and other heavy metals into the nanomaterial; (2) designing “safer” nanomaterials, which would disintegrate into non-toxic and easily biodegradable components; and (3) designing safer nanomanufacturing processes.
Safe design of nanomaterials is included in the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s Signature Initiative on Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (pdf) announced in May of 2012. Specifically, the Signature Initiative states that “a focused national emphasis on nanoinformatics* will provide a strong basis for the rational design of nanomaterials and products, prioritization of research, and assessment of risk throughout product lifecycles and across sectors.” Safe design will be also a focus of an upcoming workshop on Safe Nano Design: Molecule • Manufacturing • Market co-sponsored by NIOSH.
The workshop registration deadline is Aug. 3, 2012. Here’s more about the workshop from the event webpage,
Participants at this workshop will provide input into the safe commercialization of nano products using a Prevention-through-Design approach. Participants will share their knowledge on the efforts to develop safer nano molecules that have the same functionality; process containment and control, based on the considerations of risk of exposure to workers; and the management system approaches for including occupational safety and health into the nanoparticle synthetic process, product development, and product manufacture.
I found this description on the Prevention Through Design webpage,
One of the best ways to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is to “design out” or minimize hazards and risks early in the design process. NIOSH is leading a national initiative called Prevention through Design (PtD) to promote this concept and highlight its importance in all business decisions.
A growing number of business leaders are recognizing PtD as a cost-effective means to enhance occupational safety and health. Many U.S. companies openly support PtD concepts and have developed management practices to implement them. Other countries are actively promoting PtD concepts as well. The United Kingdom began requiring construction companies, project owners, and architects to address safety and health during the design phase of projects in 1994, and companies there have responded with positive changes in management practices to comply with the regulations. Australia developed the Australian National OHS Strategy 2002–2012, which set “eliminating hazards at the design stage” as one of five national priorities. As a result, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) developed the Safe Design National Strategy and Action Plans for Australia encompassing a wide range of design areas including buildings and structures, work environments, materials, and plant (machinery and equipment).
I appreciate the importance of this concept when applied to occupational health and safety and hope this ‘preventive design ‘ or as I prefer to call it ‘designing for success’ is applied to systems and products of all kinds.