As anyone who has spent any time around young children, connectors—specifically to power—can be a catastrophic safety hazard. And due to a number of incidents that lead to young children losing their lives, the practice of touch-proofing connector systems was originally designed to provide protection from accidental power main insertions.
It’s important to remember that with something like eyewear—there is a big difference between protective eyewear and standard eyewear. Connectors are no different. There are many ways for a connector to be engineered to ensure greater safety for those that come in contact with it. Touchproofing is one of those.
What does it mean to ‘touchproof’ a connector?
Similar to ‘water-proofing,’—making a device’s electrical components untouchable by water—touch-proofed connectors are designed so the conductive surface of a connector is unable to be touched. A touch-proof connector is a connector that has been designed to provide additional safety to the product and the human interacting with it.
What is “touchproofing”?
When creating a connector that requires “touchproofing,” you need a design that prevents electrically conductive surfaces from being touched. To test how touchproof a connector is, a standard IEC 60601 test finger is used. This testing mechanism replicates human interaction with your connector and verifies that a human will not be able to cause themselves, anyone else or the product unintentional harm while handling the device.
Are there requirements, if so, what are they?
As mentioned above, one of the standards or requirements for a touch-proof connector is IEC 60601.
IEC 60601 is a series of technical standards for the safety and effectiveness of medical electrical equipment, published by the International Electrotechnical Commission. First published in 1977 and regularly updated and restructured, as of 2011 it consists of a general standard—about 60 particular standards and about 10 collateral standards.
Medical devices, specifically, incorporate one or more Means of Protection (MOPs) within IEC 60601. A few examples of MOP can be a protective earth ground, a pre-defined creepage distance, an air gap, safely insulation or other barriers of protection. Any of the MOPs can be used in numerous combinations.
There are Means of Operator Protection standards and Means of Patient Protections standards that help to isolate patients and operators from risks of electrocution.
MOPP-2 provides two means of patient protection by defining separation between circuits with different characteristics (i.e. power circuits and data circuits) and between direct patient connections and other circuits. There is also a MOPP-1 which only provides one mode of patient protection. MOPP-1 is adequate for many applications but devices with high life danger (direct cardiac access for example) are typically required to be MOPP-2.
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