Each summer, the University of Wisconsin (UW) offers a professional development course on on-product warnings and instructions. The quality and caliber of this safety education opportunity have earned it a reputation as one of the top courses in the country to learn about safety and liability concerns for your product and company. This year’s event, “Using Warnings and Instructions to Increase Safety and Reduce Liability,” took place in the beginning of June and was packed with valuable insight on today’s most pressing topics in product safety: duty to warn and legal precedent, ANSI Z535 best practices, digital media including the in-development ANSI Z535.7 standard, and evaluating warnings/comprehension testing.
“It was gratifying and inspiring to join other stakeholders responsible for creating or reviewing warnings and instructions – from engineers to technical writers to product safety specialists to insurance groups. This was an opportunity to come together to share best practices and views, all with one goal in mind: better protecting people and reducing liability risk,” says Clarion Safety’s head of standards compliance, Angela Lambert, and one of UW’s featured experts.
Keep reading for highlights from the event – and additional opportunities to expand your product and workplace safety knowledge in case you missed this one!
UW’s 2023 Warnings Course Objectives
At first glance, product safety and instructions may seem like a very niche, specialized, and rather simple area to navigate. Why are warnings so important – and why do they require so much discussion and expertise? Per the experts at the course, anyone can misuse a product, and its not easy to control many elements, like resale. The safe design of a product is critical. Warnings (instructions, manuals, labels, tutorials, etc.) directly tie into this, and can be difficult to master effectively for the situation at hand (the product, the audience, the standards/regulatory environment). The aim of the UW’s course is not necessarily to provide hard and fast answers, but to give participants the tools they need to apply best practices principles to the situations they’re charged with. The goal is to have a better, safer product and to be in a positive liability position in the unfortunate event of an accident.
In-Depth on the Product Safety and Liability Expertise
The course featured a host of safety and liability experts, including:
- Cal Burnton, a product liability attorney with a national reputation for his ability to coordinate, manage, and defend mass toxic tort and complex product liability cases, shared legal aspects of the duty to warn, warnings, and instructions. That included fundamentals on products liability as well as ‘hot off the press’ court cases.
- Chad Neuens, a trial attorney at CMN Litigation Group experienced in business litigation, product liability, personal injury, toxic tort, and premises liability, presented on duty warn, the restatement of torts, and post-sale warnings (versus time of sale warnings).
- Dr. Eric Boelhouwer, a Principal Consultant for Dorris and Associates International, LLC, who’s primary responsibilities include the design and implementation of product safety research, spoke about product safety information in electronic media. As chair of the ANSI Z535.7 subcommittee on Warnings in Electronic Media that’s in development, he shared information on how the new standard will closely relate to ANSI Z535.6, focusing on formatting conventions, and will provide guidance on opportunities to incorporate warnings into electronic media.
- Mark Hickok, Vice President – Product Safety and Regulatory Compliance for Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation, gave a talk on developing warnings and instructions for product safety. He placed an emphasis on creating a culture of safety, engrained in the DNA of a company and in all roles, and how warnings support that. He shared techniques on integrating product safety into product lines, developing effective warnings, and understanding practical considerations in the development of warnings and instructions.
- Michelle Hockers, a shareholder at Murphy & Prachthauser, S.C. who practices exclusively personal injury law representing injured persons in cases involving product defects, motor vehicle accidents, and unsafe premises. She gave her insight as a plaintiff’s attorney on warnings, hazard identification, and standards compliance – sharing relevant case examples.
- Jared Frantz, a Human Factors Consultant for Applied Safety and Ergonomics, focused on evaluating warnings, providing insight on why evaluating warnings is important, factors to consider when selecting messages in warnings, how to include evaluation as part of a development process, and evaluation methods.
- Our own Angela Lambert, head of standards compliance at Clarion Safety and the chair of ANSI Z535.1 Safety Colors, gave a talk on on-product warnings, including key label elements and both domestic and international standards (focusing on ANSI Z535, ISO 3864-2, and the EU Machinery Directive). She also led a team-based workshop to give attendees the opportunities to evaluate warnings and develop recommendations.
More Opportunities to Learn about Product and Workplace
Did you miss the course? This is an annual event so stayed tuned for the next set of course dates. You may also be interested in these additional learning opportunities:
- Our team at Machine Safety Specialists offers a number of training courses to empower and protect your team. These range from instructor-led onsite training to e-learning opportunities. Not to be missed: an August 2023 live web training class on machine safety and risk assessment.
- Each fall, the UW hosts an annual product liability conference where you can learn about product safety management best practices, legal topics, and leading edge issues.
- Clarion Safety’s online safety hub of articles, videos, infographics, and more – where you can learn, at your pace, with our machine safety and workplace safety resources.