- Lee Ould
Common Pitfalls in Product Safety
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
SEL estimates that over 98% of companies have to change their products in some way to bring them into compliance. Some of these changes can be minor. SEL has flipped that to a near 100% success rate in securing the safety mark that we set out to get over our 50 years in this business. So where do companies often fail?
Generally there are three areas that have to be satisfied for a successful product safety project.
Meeting Prescriptive Requirements of the Applicable Standards
These requirements include the quantitative and prescriptive, such as...
the maximum sizes of enclosure openings;
the flammability of a fire enclosure;
These can be challenging sometimes to understand in the standards, but often a clear pass/fail criteria for safety agencies.
And often include qualitative or, some would say subjective, requirements such as...
having the ground not inadvertently disconnected when servicing;
providing a reliable ground connection;
having installation instructions that properly address potential safety issues
These evolve from years of submittals to different safety agencies where there are established and expected deliverables by companies, and this can be where SEL adds the most value to your project, where you do not spend too much time in unnecessary areas, and the right amount of time on the right ones. This is often the most troublesome area for companies.
Meeting Testing Requirements of the Applicable Standards
This is the area that most people submitting a product tend to focus on, although often it is not the most common area of failure. Unlike EMC, where the results of the testing alone determines compliance, this is only one of the three; passing the tests alone does not mean that the product is compliant for product safety. Yes, you can get 100% on the tests and still fail! SEL highlights the likely failing tests and explains the testing to come early in the process whenever possible, so there is time to prepare and possibly change the design to be ready for these identified higher-risk tests.
Complying with Component Requirements
Selecting the correctly certified components is a key in ultimate success in product safety for end products. Understanding the intended use for components is often challenging, as they have to be incorporated appropriately and address those items that were not evaluated at the component level. Selecting components that are compliant with North American standards is important, but also considering additional international certifications that are consistent with your longer term goals. If there is only a custom safety-relevant component that must be used, then the appropriate time must be spent in evaluating those items that would normally be considered during the component certification, but by those involved on the end product. And this should start earlier than the end product! Often, the challenge is that you need a company like SEL that is aware of both the end product standards, and the component standards, such as for AC inlets or optocouplers, which is not common in our industry.