07 Apr 2020

Assessing risk levels as a manufacturer

There are two core components to assessing risk: hazard and exposure. The hazard component includes identifying the potential hazards as well as determining the severities of each hazard. The exposure component assesses the events that need to occur leading up to the injury and the probabilities of each of these events occurring; a concept we refer to as the "critical path to injury".

Once the potential hazards of a foreign material have been identified and severities have been determined, the next step in determining the risk of each hazard lies in considering the exposure of the consumer to these hazards.

Using a sharp piece of brown glass as an example, one of the hazard concerns will be potential oral, esophageal or gastrointestinal laceration. These types of injuries have the potential to necessitate hospitalization and/or surgery, indicating a high level of hazard.

To illustrate the severity of the risk level, consider this glass shard in a box of granola. When a consumer goes to eat the granola, they will likely pour directly from the box into a bowl, add milk, and use a spoon to consume the granola. If the piece of glass falls into their bowl along with the granola and blends in with the color of the granola, the consumer is unlikely to see the piece and may unintentionally scoop up the glass with their granola, leading to a potential laceration injury. This scenario would be considered high risk, as the probability of the glass entering the consumer's mouth with food is high.

Conversely, if this same piece of brown glass is inside a clear water bottle, the foreign material will be more visible to the consumer and they will be more likely to identify the glass and not consume the beverage as a result. This would be a lower risk scenario, despite having the same potential hazards as the granola example.

The example above illustrates that the critical path to injury is heavily dependent on the exact exposure scenario of the foreign material to the consumer. When determining exposure, some helpful questions to consider are:

  • Is it visible?
  • Does it sink or float?
  • How is the consumer interacting with the product?
  • How easy is it to Identify the foreign material?
  • Who and how are consumers interacting with the product?

Every incident of foreign material inclusion has its own unique concerns and considerations, we've only touched upon a few basic examples.  For more information on our services, visit: https://www.intertek.com/product-assurance/safety/

Don't miss the opportunity to learn from the experts….

Intertek will be offering a complimentary Webinar, "Not All Foreign Materials are Created Equal" on April 9, 2020 at 11am EDT, 10am CDT, 8am PDT. Register here.


Eleanore Pittman,
Senior Safety Manager, Product Assurance
Health, Environmental & Regulatory Services (HERS)


Today's expert blogger is Eleanore Pittman. Eleanore is a Senior Safety Manager for Intertek Product Assurance and has been at Intertek for 8 years. Where standards fall short, Ellie serves to educate clients on potential product hazards and develop customized safety assessments to meet their unique needs. With her thorough knowledge of product safety, Ellie is able to consult with clients on potential product hazards and advise them on mitigation strategies that can increase their brand value by drastically reducing a product's potential to injure a consumer or result in a product recall. Ellie attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received a B.S. in Chemistry and has also obtained an MBA from Western Governors University.

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