Packaging : a box of delights or a can of worms? The contribution of ergonomics to the usability, safety and semantics of packaging

Product packaging offers manufacturers tremendous opportunities to satisfy the needs of the various stakeholders in the products’ lifecycle. It can obviously protect during distribution, advertise the contents of the pack, ensure sterility and prevent tampering and inform the end user how to make use of the contents and dispose of or recycle the packaging itself. Package characteristics can also help shape buyers’ impressions at the time of purchase and during use. In recent years buyers have shown a willingness to pay more for improved packaging, but there are limits. (Dibb & Simpkin et al, 1997) Unfortunately research shows that there is also a darker side to packaging and that there are a large number of injuries either caused by, or directly associated with, packaging. It is a socially unacceptable fact that some 49,000 UK consumers need hospital treatment from injuries through opening grocery packaging each year.