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Board 87 : Integrating Product-Safety Curriculum to Enhance Design and Reinforce Engineering Ethics

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kenneth L. d'Entremont University of Utah

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Dr. d’Entremont, an adjunct professor in the University of Utah's Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ergonomics and Safety Program, has worked in industry for over twenty-five years. During this period, he investigated mishaps and conducted vehicle handling and crash testing. For over ten years, he was Corporate Product Safety Manager for a large designer, manufacturer, and international distributor of powersports vehicles and products. He was responsible for both active tasks (such as design reviews, product specifications, sign-offs, and standards development) and reactive tasks (such as product investigations, safety recalls, and regulatory affairs) for all of their products worldwide.

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Andrew S. Merryweather University of Utah Orcid 16x16

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Andrew S. Merryweather is director of the Ergonomics and Safety Program at the University of Utah and Assistant Professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering where he teaches and directs research in the areas of biomechanics, human factors, musculoskeletal injury prevention and human modeling. Dr. Merryweather obtained his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah in 2008 as a NIOSH Trainee in Occupational Injury Prevention. Over the past 12 years Dr. Merryweather has managed significant research projects investigating musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace, assistive technologies for persons with disabilities, adaptive technology development, robotics and human-system interactions

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The National Society of Professional Engineers’ (NSPE) Code of Ethics for Engineers has, as its first Fundamental Canon, the admonition: Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. Despite recognizing and accepting this, the majority of today’s engineering students are given little guidance on safety. Product-safety engineering is more than compliance, legality, reliability, expense, quality, or simply increasing design margins of safety.

To address this gap, a course was developed to raise awareness and provide engineering students with concepts and tools useful to product-safety engineering. This course is structured to help students make sound and rational decisions affecting the safety of product users by applying safety concepts and industrial experience.

Unlike well-established, core engineering classes, product-safety engineering is not determined by objective scientific criteria. Rather, it is ultimately decided by value systems which vary regionally, temporally, and from person-to-person. This requires students to think clearly and express effectively their rationale and decisions to others.

Students are presented with historic product-safety issues, engineering ethics, changing world demographics, intended use, classification of safeguards, safety hierarchies, post-sale responsibilities, Haddon matrices, risk management and analysis, and industry standards. A comprehensive approach to product safety is emphasized through student group projects evaluating the safety of a product of their selection using tools learned in the course. Qualified guest speakers introduce or reinforce course topics.

Course examples are used to show that conditions leading to product-safety issues rarely arise from advanced technologies alone, but instead from failures to properly follow engineering basics such as fastener design, testing programs, development processes, misunderstanding product use, and ignoring failure modes.

This course is taught from the perspective of a fast-paced, innovative design and manufacturing corporation with worldwide distribution. Effective points of influence for product-safety evaluations within the Engineering Design, Development, and Testing Process (EDDTP) are described.

Students learn to think critically and to study beyond today’s necessarily restrictive technical curricula so that they are prepared to take responsible positions in modern corporations and benefit the public. Students are encouraged to innovate when addressing product-safety concerns—a skill that will be necessary to responsibly address the new and unique product-safety challenges of our ever-changing, complex world.

d'Entremont, K. L., & Merryweather, A. S. (2018, June), Board 87 : Integrating Product-Safety Curriculum to Enhance Design and Reinforce Engineering Ethics Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30125

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