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Handbook for Preventing the Elderly from Being Involved in Product Accidents Formulated

March 25, 2020

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) formulated a Handbook for Preventing the Elderly from Being Involved in Serious Product Accidents as part of the efforts under the FY2019 Project for Research and Development and Other Activities for Formulating Technical Standards for Industrial Safety and Other Fields (“The Project for Promoting Safety-by-Design Taking Advantage of the “Library of Elderly Persons’ Behavioral Data”).

Popularization of these documents is expected to decrease the number of product accidents in which elderly persons are victims.

1. Background

As Japan is facing the arrival of a super-aged society, issues have also started appearing in the field of product safety, which is an area that directly influences the safety of consumers. In 2019, the ratio of serious product accidents* caused by the elderly was over 30% of the total. Moreover, the severity of injuries caused by product accidents tends to be more serious with older victims.

Looking at details of the causes of such accidents, the ratio of accidents caused by user error and inattention is significantly higher in cases involving the elderly. Such incorrect use and inattention are considered to be caused by changes in physical and cognitive abilities as well as declining capabilities of appropriate decision making due to aging. To address this situation, companies manufacturing products that are mostly used by the elderly need to design and develop products taking their behavioral characteristics into full consideration.

Against this backdrop, in FY2016, METI started installing cameras and other devices to observe elderly persons’ daily lives and, since then, it has been collecting data in the form of video footage  of elderly persons’ behavior for the purpose of making use of such data to improve the development of products for the elderly. As part of this improvement effort, METI incorporated valuable information from the video data, now collected into a video “library” (see final note in the press release), other data on product accidents involving the elderly, including their behavioral tendencies, and other information, into documents that will contribute to preventing the elderly from being involved in product accidents.

*Note: The term “serious product accidents” refers to product accidents involving: a death, a serious injury which requires a period of 30 days or more of medical treatment, a fire which has been confirmed by any fire service, carbon monoxide poisoning or residual disability.

2. Overview

When discussing product safety for the elderly, companies should understand various potential relationships and use patterns between the elderly and target products, e.g., approaches taken by the elderly when using the target products, other products used together with the target products and the environments of use and care workers and other people surrounding users; rather than simply considering a one-to-one relationship, i.e., the single elderly user and single product design. Moreover, if many elderly persons are found to use target products in a manner that was unintended in the original design of the products, the companies need to take measures to prevent the elderly from being involved in product accidents presuming the unintended use as an expected use case, and not simply labeling such use cases as “incorrect use.”

Based on this perspective, METI published the following two documents.

(1) Handbook for Preventing the Elderly from Being Involved in Product Accidents

This is a document for the elderly, who are mainly expected to choose and use target products, and care workers working with the elderly. The handbook explains the outline of document (2) below in an organized and easy-to-understand manner and presents basic information on the physical and cognitive abilities of the elderly.

(2) Toward Achievement of Universal Designs for Product Safety Considering Expected Changes in Cognitive and other Physical Characteristics of the Elderly – A reference for product developers, manufacturers and service providers

This document mainly targets companies designing and developing products. It organizes key points, considering changes in the cognitive and other physical characteristics of the elderly, environments where the products are expected to be used by or for the elderly and explains points to be addressed in designing and developing such products.

In compiling this material, METI inaugurated a committee of experts in various fields related to the elderly, such as behavioral characteristics, welfare and nursing and standards and other rules for products, and held discussions through the committee.

The Library of Elderly Persons’ Behavioral Data, which METI utilized in compiling the documents, is accessible at the following website. This is a website containing the video footage of, and data on, elderly behavior.

Note: If you wish to access and browse the library, you are required to receive a simple prior consent on copyrights and other rules from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and to obtain login information issued by AIST.

Division in Charge

Product Safety Division, Industrial and Product Safety Policy Group

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