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Childproof packaging - new designs could save lives

June 03, 2004

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".
    Notes for Editors

    The Faraday Packaging Partnership is led by the 'White Rose' Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, and by Pira International. It aims to generate new thinking in the design, manufacture and supply of packaging for the consumer's benefit, and supports companies looking to enhance packaging in the food & drink, personal care, household, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

    The aim of the Faraday Partnerships is to encourage closer relationships between industry and the research community and so encourage the way that technology is developed and exploited in the UK. For more information on the Faraday Packaging Partnership visit

    The consumer survey conducted during the project consisted of two phases: phase one comprised a diary study involving 250 consumers; in phase two, 100 volunteers aged between 20 and 84 completed a specially designed questionnaire.

    The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £500 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC:

    For more information, contact:

    Pauline King
    Marketing & Account Manager
    Faraday Packaging Partnership
    Tel: 113-284-0213

    Three images are available from the EPSRC Press Office, contact:
    Jonathan Wakefield
    tel: 1793-444075
    Natasha Richardson
    tel: 1793-444404

    Titles and suggested captions for images Tri.jpg: 'the 'Tri' concept - the three equidistant buttons need to be pressed simultaneously to unscrew the top' Poke.jpg: 'The 'Poke' concept- an adult-length finger is the key to springing open this container' Slide.jpg: 'The 'Slide'concept - three buttons must be aligned in the correct way for the lid to open'

    Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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