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Work-in-Progress: Teaching Responsibility for Safety in Bioengineering Design

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Biomedical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1394.1 - 23.1394.5



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Paper Authors


Denny C. Davis Washington State University

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Dr. Denny Davis is emeritus professor of Chemical and Bioengineering at Washington State University. He has taught bioengineering multidisciplinary design for approximately a decade, with recent attention given to entrepreneurial projects. Dr. Davis recently co-developed instructional materials on Prevention through Design in Bioengineering for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). He is a Fellow of ASEE.

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Howard P Davis Washington State University

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Dr. Davis received his B.A. from the Evergreen State College in 1976 and then both his B.S. and M.S. from WSU in 1981, and in 1988, respectively. Dr. Davis earned his Ph.D from the University of Oregon in 1993. Dr. Davis is currently a clinical assistant professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. He has been the president and CEO of IPM, a medical device company and Total Dynamics LLC a software company. He is also on the board of directors of Developing World Technologies, a company started by former students of the capstone class that he teaches. His interests include engineering and entrepreneurship pedagogy and assessment, technology development and clinical applications of biomedical instrumentation.

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Teaching Responsibility for Safety in Bioengineering DesignEngineers are responsible for protecting the public from hazards associated with the technologies theydesign and put into use. Bioengineers who develop technologies for the medical and healthcare industriesbear special responsibility for protecting people along the entire supply, implementation, and disposallife-cycle for a technology. As educators of future bioengineering professionals, we carry theresponsibility to instill the commitment and to provide the knowledge needed to design for safety in thebiomedical industry.This paper demonstrates the concept of “prevention through design” as a means for designing safety intobioengineering innovations. Rather than attempting to protect people from hazards by adding shields orby posting warnings, safety is best achieved when a technology is designed specifically to prevent allpossible hazards. Safety designed into the technology from the very beginning is termed “preventionthrough design.” This paper presents a set of instructional materials that prompt consideration of possiblehazards throughout a design project and discusses tools for evaluating hazards associated with differentdesign alternatives.The paper begins with case studies of serious accidents that have occurred in bioengineering-relatedenvironments, raising students’ awareness of the gravity of hazards in this field. Risk assessment tools arepresented for use in capstone design courses to engage students in identifying and assessing theseriousness of potential hazards both generally and in their own projects. Risk assessment tools arevaluable for evaluating the extent to which different design options they consider in their projects mightaddress hazards present there. Similar tools are discussed for assessing the potential for failures to occur,providing students help in designing for reliability. A set of instructional resources (presentation slides,active learning exercises, and examples) prepared by the authors of this paper will be discussed and isavailable for download from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website.Engineers working in bioengineering fields must be able to design and utilize technologies safely andminimize the occurrence of equipment and procedural failures. An important first step in their designlearning is creating a passion and competency for accident “prevention through design.” This paper willenable bioengineering faculty to prepare their graduates with a safety consciousness and a competence indesigning for safety.

Davis, D. C., & Davis, H. P. (2013, June), Work-in-Progress: Teaching Responsibility for Safety in Bioengineering Design Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22780

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