Using Warnings and Instructions to Increase Safety and Reduce Liability

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Course Overview

Learn from four widely recognized experts who will help you make products safer and avoid liability.

Who Should Attend?

  • Managers 
  • Engineers 
  • Technical writers
  • Product safety specialists
  • Anyone responsible for creating or reviewing instructions and warnings

Additional Information

Although not required, course attendees are encouraged to bring ANSI Z535.4 and ANSI Z535.6 to class.

Course Outline

Day 1

Duty to Warn and Instruct: Legal Responsibility

  • No guarantees
  • Broad and important topic
  • Key: Being organized
  • Theories of liability: Negligence/strict liability
  • Factors in determining whether duty exists
  • Warnings vs. instructions

There is No Duty to Warn Where Hazard Is Open and Obvious

  • Debate of what is open and obvious
  • Know the use of the product

Unintended/Unforeseeable Misuse

  • Foreseeability
  • Know the use of the product

Environmental Test

  • Modifications
  • Adequacy of warnings
  • Factors

Causation: Did the Failure to Warn Cause the Accident?

  • History
  • Factors
  • Warnings/retrofit/recall

How to Improve Your Product

  • Be organized
  • Documentation and its importance
  • The role of sales/service

The ANSI Z535 Standards for Product Safety Signs and Labels

  • Guidelines for content of product safety signs (hazard nature, seriousness, consequence, avoidance)
  • Guidelines for format of product safety signs (signal word, color, pictorials, word messages)

International Standards

  • ISO standards for product warnings
  • EC machine safety directive

International Standard Harmonization

  • US standards harmonization
  • ANSI Z535 revision
  • ISO 3864 revision

Durability Considerations

  • Product environment
  • Product surface
  • Material choices

Team-Based Workshop Activity

  • Evaluate warning
  • Develop recommendations
  • Team presentations


Day 2

Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings

Integrating Product Safety

  • How to conduct a hazard analysis
  • Designing instructions and warnings for users

Designing Instructions

  • Who is your user?
  • What you see is what you read…or not
  • What to put in…and what to leave out

Designing Warnings and Safety Messages

  • The duty to warn revisited
  • Liability prevention vs. product safety

Evaluating Warnings and Instructions

Evaluation Considerations

  • When to evaluate
  • Evaluation methods
  • When and how to document
  • Evaluation workshop

Complete Evaluation and Final Adjournment


"The program is very well-rounded and covers each of the elements of warnings and instructions in a thorough, effective, and interesting manner."

"I'd be hard pressed to say what was best—there was so much useful information, and the outside experts were super."

"Good consistent information throughout the presentations. Everyone had the same message for action by companies for warnings and instruction."


Charles Burhans

Charles Burhans is a Senior Consultant at Applied Safety and Ergonomics, a consulting service that has been providing valuable analysis, insight, answers, training, data, and problem-solving strategies in consultation and expert witness capacities to help clients make informed decisions since 1994. Recent professional activities include development and evaluation of warnings, instructions, and product literature, analysis of standards, accident investigation and the development of safety training materials and product safety/integrity documentation. Mr. Burhans is a member of the ANSI Z536.6 subcommittee on Product Safety Information in Product Manuals, Instructions, and Other Collateral Materials.

Angela Lambert

In her role as head of standards compliance at Clarion Safety Systems, Angela Lambert is actively involved in the ANSI and ISO standards related to visual safety communication. Together with contributing to committee work, she acts as a liaison between these bodies and Clarion Safety, bringing standards-informed expertise to clients to keep their warnings up-to-date. For nearly fifteen years, she has collaborated with Clarion Safety’s product manufacturing and facility safety customers – as well as industry partners and advocates – on label and sign systems that can help reduce risk and protect people. In addition to designing and producing best practice labels and signs, Clarion Safety specializes in guiding its clients through a streamlined process to implement cutting-edge visual safety communication systems in line with today’s leading safety standards. The company is a member of the ANSI Z535 Committee, the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 145 and the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 283.

Patricia Robinson

Dr. Robinson brings more than 35 years of experience to consulting and training in product safety, particularly in the area of warnings and instructions. She is the author of Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings (4th edition), as well as other books and articles. Dr. Robinson has helped more than one hundred national and international companies improve their warnings and instructions, addressing safety issues in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products ranging from infant car seats to high- wall coal-mining machines.

Dr. Robinson brings a unique blend of skills and experience to her consulting. She began her work in instructions and warnings while serving on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering. In addition to developing curriculum and teaching technical communication courses, Dr. Robinson helped develop and served as the first Director of the Technical Communication Certificate program and served as Program Director for continuing education courses in technical communication, including product documentation. She continues to teach regularly at product safety conferences and seminars.

Jeff Oelke

Jeff Oelke oversees the Maintenance and Reliability Certificate offered through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Engineering Professional Development. Mr. Oelke has over 20 years of experience working with manufacturing companies. In addition to a thorough understanding of Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints and Quick Response Manufacturing strategies, Mr. Oelke has firsthand experience with assembly, metal forming, welding, plastics, printed circuit layout and fabrication, paint and wood products manufacturing processes. Prior to joining Engineering Professional Development, Mr. Oelke was the managing member of the Continuum Management Group, LLC, Richland Center, WI, and the division manager for supplier development at Deere and Company’s Commercial and Consumer Equipment Division. Mr. Oelke possesses MS and BS degrees with concentrations in manufacturing operations and computer hardware architecture.  He has been certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Natalie Eschbach

Natalie J. Eschbach is an attorney at Swanson, Martin, & Bell, LLP’s Chicago office, and is a member of the firm’s product liability practice group. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group. Ms. Eschbach has litigated and tried numerous complex, high exposure matters in state and federal courts across the country. Her clients have included manufacturers and sellers of products involving industrial machinery, power tools, firearms, automotive products, and juvenile products. Ms. Eschbach also provides risk management services to her clients, advising them on issues relating to updates in product liability law, government regulations, product safety and other related matters. In addition to her law practice, Ms. Eschbach is an adjunct professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and is a moot court coach for one of Loyola’s national competition teams. Ms. Eschbach is also a member of the Defense Research Institute (DRI) and serves on the Young Lawyers Committee.

Upcoming dates (0)

Take this course when it’s offered next!

Program Director

Jeff Oelke