Fred is a mechanical engineer who works for Super Mulcher Corporation. It manufactures
the Model 1 Pulverizer, a 10-hp chipper/shredder that grinds yard waste into small
particles that can be composted and blended into the soil. The device is particularly
popular with homeowners who are interested in reducing the amount of garden waste
deposited in landfills.
The chipper/shredder has a powerful engine and a rapidly rotating blade that can easily
injure operators if they are not careful. During the five years the Model 1 Pulverizer has
been sold, there have been 300 reported accidents with operators. The most common accident
occurs when the discharge chute gets plugged with shredded yard waste, prompting the
operator to reach into the chute to unplug it. When operators reach in too far, the
rotating blades can cut off or badly injure their fingers.
Charlie Burns, president of Super Mulcher, calls a meeting of the engineers and legal
staff to discuss ways to reduce legal liability associated with the sale of the Model 1
Pulverizer. The legal staff suggest several ways of reducing legal liability:
- Put bright yellow warning signs on the Model 1 Pulverizer that say, "Danger!
Rapidly rotating blades. Keep hands out when machine is running!"
- Include the following warner in the owners manual: "Operators must keep hands
away from the rotating blades when machine is in operation."
- State in the owners manual that safe operation of the Model 1 Pulverizer requires
a debris collection bag placed over the discharge chute. State that operators are not to
remove the debris collection bag while the Model 1 Pulverizing is running. If the
discharge chute plugs, the owner is instructed to turn off the Model 1 Pulverizer, remove
the debris collection bag, replace the debris collection bag, and restart the engine.
From operating the Model 1 Pulverizer, Fred knows the discharge chute has a tendency to
plug. Because the machine is hard to restart, there is a great temptation to run the unit
without the debris collection bag--and to unplug the discharge chute while the unit is
Questions: In each of the following scenarios discuss the various ways Fred
attempts to resolve the problem.
Scenario 1: Fred suggests to his engineering colleagues that the Model 1 Pulverizer
should be redesigned so it does not plug. His colleagues reply that the company probably
cannot afford the expense of re-engineering the Model 1, and they conclude that the legal
staffs recommendations should be sufficient. Dissatisfied, in his spare time Fred
redesigns the Model 1 Pulverizer and solves the plugging problem in an affordable way.
Scenario 2: Fred says nothing to his colleagues about the impracticality of requiring
the machine to be run with the debris collection bag. He accepts the legal staffs
advice and adds the warning signs and owners manual instructions. No changes are
made in the design of the Model 1 Pulverizer.
Scenario 3: Fred suggests to his engineering colleagues that they try to convince
management that the Model 1 Pulverizer should be redesigned so that it does not plug. They
agree and prepare a redesign plan that will cost $50,000 to implement. Then they take
their plan to management.