The Curious Case of the Lighter: Do We Take Safety for Granted?

Did you know that 70% of US lighter imports do not conform to safety standards laid out by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)? This has sparked controversy amongst retailers and consumers alike. We ask, “do we take safety for granted in certain areas?” And how about in fields where the greater health risks lie?

It’s likely that we overlook the humble yet ingenious design of the cigarette lighter. It has been said that indigenous Amazonian tribes are no longer impressed by the airplanes that fly overhead. The fact that man can produce fire at the flick of a finger, however, is groundbreaking!

Sparking a Debate

Yet lighters are the cause of almost 30,000 severe accidents in the European Union (EU) alone. Across the pond in the US, a study carried out by BIC and The Harris Poll uncovered that Americans don’t recognize discrepancies in safety standards of imported disposable lighters. Similarly in Europe, 73% of lighter models do not meet the ISO 9994 safety standards.

As great numbers are sold each day, it seems as though consumers automatically assume that products undergo scrupulous testing and have been marked as safe. The question begs an answer.

Would these products still be available if we weren’t taking safety for granted?

Total Recall

The case of the lighter is not an isolated one. If – following further internal testing or consumer analysis – a product has been deemed unsafe, companies will be forced to recall items to avoid putting consumers at risk.

Recalls happen almost every day but one of the more well-known cases of a product recall came in 2006. Dell, the computer technology company, was forced to recall 4.1 million Sony-produced lithium-ion batteries. This was prompted by several reports of laptops catching fire after the battery heated to extreme temperatures.

Unless the product is misused, we wouldn’t normally associate cigarette lighters or laptops with tremendous safety risks. In contrast, in industrial fields where greater health risks lie – how much care is being taken to ensure safety?

Plant Protection: A Priority

Extreme weather conditions pose a great threat to plants and personnel. When you think of industrial risks, natural disasters might come to mind. In actual fact, these events are rare. Proactive plant operators will ensure that assets are protected all year round against all manner of potential risk. But there are several areas that companies may not dedicate enough time or thought to.

One example is cybersecurity. To draw from the earlier – cigarette lighters are often presumed to be faultless and the same could be said for cybersecurity systems. Yet, cyberattacks are becoming more and more complex and enterprises must remain flexible and check whether their security measure are still sufficient to protect against growing risks. International standards require separate levels with defined transitions so that operators’ hardware, operating systems, networks, and engineering components aren’t targeted.

Complacency amongst employees can also lead to vulnerabilities in cybersecurity. There have been incidences where USB sticks containing malware have been planted in conspicuous areas for staff to find. If any attached files are downloaded infects an employee’s PC system, the results could be catastrophic.

Another hidden risk to industrial plants is a lack of formal training. Safety standards can be daunting, but it is mandatory that staff are able to present verification that they have received the appropriate training. As regulations change, refresher training is vital in keeping the most recent risks at arm’s length. HIMA offers training courses and seminars to increase knowledge of planning, operating, and maintaining industrial plants.

It could also be the case that plant owners do not have the time or resources to ensure that all safety measures function properly and adhere to changing regulatory standards. Safety doesn’t have a beginning and end point and is no one-off initiative, it is a continuous process and should never be presumed. That’s why many operators will choose to opt for a strategy that ensures safe plant operations throughout the entire lifecycle. From planning and installation, to operation and modification, Safety Lifecycle Services from HIMA can minimize risk of accidents, unexpected downtime, and ensure safety is never ‘taken for granted’.