New packaging designs have been developed that could save lives and make 'childproof' containers more user-friendly for adults.
A collaboration involving psychologists, engineers and designers has led to the development of radical but practical new child-resistant closure (CRC) designs.
Because they are easier for adults to open, the containers will discourage the decanting of medicines into unsafe packaging – a practice which currently causes an estimated 10,000 cases/year of accidental poisoning in the UK, mostly involving small children.
The initiative was commissioned by the Faraday Packaging Partnership, which is funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the DTI. Those taking part included the University of Sheffield Packaging Research Group and 3D consultants Factory Design.
First, the project team carried out a consumer survey involving volunteers aged between 20 and 84. 90% of those who took part reported having difficulty opening traditional childproof containers, e.g. the 'squeeze hard and turn' design, with the over-50s experiencing frequent problems. The research showed that most difficulties were caused by lack of physical strength.
These results underlined the need for an innovative design approach focusing on the end-user and on real-world situations. The team therefore set out to design packaging that was physically easy to open, even for the elderly or infirm, but which required actions to be thought through in a way that a small child would not be capable of.
Based on this philosophy, the team produced three revolutionary designs:
- 'Slide': a container with three buttons that must be aligned to release the lid.
- 'Tri': a container with three buttons that must be pressed gently but simultaneously.
- 'Poke': a tube with an internal catch that can only be released by an adult-length finger.
Patents have been filed and the team now aim to grant manufacturing licences to commercial organisations. Pauline King of the Faraday Packaging Partnership says: "Our objective is to enable these more practical, safer CRC designs to make life easier for a significant proportion of the population".