One of the first things Ken Rutledge does when you meet him at his Richmond branch of the Canadian Standards Association is run through the building’s safe and sound evacuation plan, pointing out that the staircase leading to the second floor is not to be used in the case of an emergency.
As product group manager of the audio/video and medical group of CSA International – the testing and certification arm of the Canadian Standards Association – Rutledge is evidently one careful guy. And he should be: if he doesn’t do his job right, you might never make it past breakfast, what with the toaster bursting into flames and the coffee machine spurting boiling water everywhere. “We ensure that products are safe, but we also ensure that they fail safely,” explains Rutledge during a tour of the Richmond CSA testing facility. You don’t have to be a science nerd to appreciate how this might just be the coolest place to work in the province. Anywhere you look, lab-coated employees are diligently dismantling all manner of electronic goods, from radio alarm clocks to electric organs. There are fume hoods on standby in case something starts smoking, a sound-proof room for testing noisy objects such as vacuum cleaners and even an accelerated aging machine that can simulate the passing of 10 years in about 30 days. (No, it doesn’t work on people.) There’s a water-testing room in which one worker is busy dunking a bunch of electrical cords into a bucket of ice and water. Even your styling aids get a good going over. “We have a big fake head with thermocouples all over it for evaluating blow dryers,” says Rutledge. “If you hold the thing a certain distance from your head, are you going to catch your head on fire?” Thanks to these guys, that’s not about to happen. So go ahead: plug in that high-speed turbo hair blaster and let ’er rip. Because somewhere in this building, it’s been dropped, short-circuited and perhaps even set aflame. In the safest possible way.