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The Financial Repercussions of Non-Complaint Safety Labels

Posted by Erin Earley on 17th May 2012

Lessons for Product Manufacturers from the Trade Quip Pty Ltd Case

This past spring, Trade Quip Pty Ltd, a manufacturer of hydraulic trolley jacks located in Australia, was fined $100,000 by the Federal Court of Australia for omissions and errors in their product safety label that put consumers at risk of physical harm. According to an announcement by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Court declared that more than 2,000 jacks sold between August 2009 and September 2010 had a warning label that was in a font size that was too small and, for some jacks, contained an incorrect warning message. This was found to be in violation of trolley jack labeling standards that require specific safety information to be affixed to jacks, including a clear warning that individuals should not get under a vehicle that is only supported by a trolley jack and to use vehicle support stands. By not including this information on the company's labels, users of the jacks were unnecessarily put at serious risk of injury or death.

What This Case Means for Manufacturers
While this court case and subsequent judgment took place in Australia, the message it sends goes far beyond the country's shores: it's important for every product manufacturer to know that the safety labels they place on their products need to be well thought-out and in compliance with applicable standards. The bottom line is that your safety labels require your utmost attention, both to protect your product users from harm and to protect your company from potentially devastating lawsuits.

Understanding the Standards And How to Apply Them
There are three levels of standards that product manufacturers must take into consideration:

  • A-level standards are the overarching general standards that provide guidance for all product manufacturers on a subject. In the United States, for product safety labeling, this is ANSI Z535.4 Standard for Product Safety Signs and Labels. Internationally, this is ISO 3864-2 Graphical symbols – Safety colours and safety signs – Part 2: Design principles for product safety labels.
  • B-level standards are for issues that need to be standardized for an entire industry. An example of a B-level standard in the area of safety labeling would be ISO 11684 for Tractors, machinery for agriculture and forestry, powered lawn and garden equipment – Safety signs and hazard pictorials – General principles.
  • C-level standards are for issues that need to be standardized for a particular product. An example of a C-level standard would be ISO 3691-5:2009 for Industrial trucks – Safety requirements and verification – Part 5: Pedestrian-propelled trucks.

As a product manufacturer, you must be aware of and use the standards that apply to your product – and most importantly, the standards that are current at the time it is manufactured and put into the marketplace for sale. From a warnings perspective, this is crucial because, as the Australian court case reinforces, if your warnings are inadequate and do not meet the standards – which can be deemed even by the font size being too small – you are not meeting your duty to warn. And in the United States, "failure to warn" and "inadequate warnings" are the leading allegation against manufacturers who find themselves in product liability litigation.

Clarion Safety Label

The image, above, is an example of a standards-compliant product safety label. To learn more about how Clarion labels communicate the ANSI content requirements, visit the Clarion Safety Label Information Learning Center.

Are Your Safety Labels Standards-Compliant?
Are you unsure if your labels are compliant? Take the necessary steps to ensure your company will not end up as another lesson to be learned from. Get help now on the path to risk reduction and protecting people: take advantage of a safety label assessment from Clarion Safety Systems. Clarion is serious about keeping people safe and offers this safety assessment at no-charge.

Why Clarion? When it comes to creating your standards-compliant safety labels, Clarion offers unique knowledge to apply the newest standards and give you state-of-the-art peace of mind. We sit on the ANSI and ISO committees responsible for the U.S. and international safety sign standards; when you work with Clarion, youre getting the most current and accurate information straight from the expert source.

For more information on Clarion safety assessments, view our video, "Clarion Safety Label & Sign Assessment". Get started now with your safety label assessment by calling Clarion at 1-877-748-0244.

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