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Foresight review on design for safety

Designing for safety – protecting lives from the start.

The Lloyd's Register Foundation, a charity helping to protect the safety of life and property by supporting education, research and public engagement, today announces the next in its series of Foresight reviews.

This Foresight Review explores how a culture of design for safety can enhance the safety of the world around us. Design for safety goes beyond legislation, regulation and standards, which all play an important role for established products and services, but their limited scope often leads to missed opportunities to enhance safety by taking a broader perspective.

A design for safety culture takes a holistic approach to understanding the influences that affect safety. Such influences are varied and take into account the broader environment within which design operates including complex interactions, behaviour and culture. It goes beyond traditional design methods and focuses on the goal of a safer design.

Led by principal investigator, and Dean of the Royal College of Art (RCA) School of Design, Professor Paul Anderson, co-chairs Professor Rachel Cooper and Chris Ross, and co-investigators Professor Ashley Hall and Dr Laura Ferrarello, a panel of international experts representing industry, academia, government, regulators and representative bodies were identified to explore the topic of design for safety. The panel assembled in London in February 2018 for a two-day symposium, followed by a more focused event in March 2018.

The review's findings highlight the importance of multidisciplinary teams working together to understand a broader range of safety risks than traditionally considered; an example of which includes design that takes into account how people both affect, and are affected by, design.

An important finding is that the introduction of new technology and emerging industries bring with them risks that are not well understood or even unknown. A design for safety culture is needed to make sure that these risks are controlled before they are able to cause harm.

The review makes a set of recommendations to bridge the design for safety gap between products, services and infrastructure and safer design. The recommendations are:

  • Identify future design for safety challenges: There is a need to establish a design for safety research observatory capability that identifies emerging major safety issues and investigates whether new design for safety methods are required.
  • Develop future design for safety methods and skills: There is a need to establish a capability that has expertise in design for safety methods including research and experimental design activity, graduate and postgraduate educational programmes and engagement with the wider international community to learn and share experiences and best practice.
  • Establish a network of global excellence: To maximise the impact of these two recommendations an international network of centres of excellence should be established.

Commenting on the Foundation's latest initiative, Professor Richard Clegg, Foundation Chief Executive, said: "Our charitable mission of enhancing safety through high technical standards that includes design. Design shapes our daily lives and the world around us, yet we are often unaware of its presence. This review starts a new discussion in the design community on how design can be safer".

Commenting on the Foundation's latest initiative, Professor Paul Anderson, Dean of the School of Design at the RCA, said: "This report is the first of its kind and represents an important sea change in how design for safety is being thought about. The future in terms of design, innovation and technology is impacting greatly on all our lives in very complex ways. We recognise that the future risk to people and their safety can come from surprising areas arising from technology itself through to virtual unseen threats delivered though devices and the environment we live in. At the RCA we continually challenge designers within their many disciplines to think of the longer term impacts on society, human behaviour and interaction. Design for Safety demands that we investigate new safety challenges of the future, develop methods and skills and establish clear principles for future ethics and modes of design for safety practice".

Download the Design for Safety foresight review.

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