RE: Is there a study on reading warnings, notes?

Subject: RE: Is there a study on reading warnings, notes?
From: "Shannon Wade" <SWade -at- daktronics -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 13:03:11 -0600

We are actively moving away from specific safety notices in our manuals. We are headed the direction of "Here's the list of over-arching concerns. We've provided you with them at the beginning of the manual. Whether or not you choose to read them is your decision. Now that we've provided you with them, let's move on to the actual instructions, shall we?". In the past we have included "Notes" with pertinent information and the word "Note" in bold. We are doing away with that convention and including that pertinent text (Do not stand in a puddle while doing this) within the appropriate paragraph. Does anyone see large concerns with this?

I am on digest, so feel free to contact me on or off list.

Message: 25
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 16:22:40 -0500
From: "Lippincott, Richard" <RLippincott -at- as-e -dot- com>
Subject: RE: Is there a study on reading warnings, notes?
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
<13F0061C2FF9A54E8A5BFB8CA626EF5908A80739 -at- mahqexc01 -dot- as-e -dot- com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Geoff Hart said:

>We need to design documentation around that

>principle... for example, by building warnings and cautions into the

>steps rather than setting them aside.

In my opinion, the approach has to be two fold: the procedural step has
to tell you the safe way to do it, but an offset admonition has to
explain the consequences. Offset in order to capture attention, offset
so that it isn't missed.

If I recall from yesterday's digest, Geoff gave an example that a
procedure shouldn't just tell a person working with electrical
components to avoid working in a wet area but instead provides the
instructions to dry the work area. I agree, but I'd also add a big fat
can't-miss-it admonition about the electric shock danger from wet

I can think right off the top of my head of a couple of aviation
examples where the correct procedure didn't also include a warning of
the consequences, and the result were literally a disaster.

Probably the most famous is the American Airlines Flight 191 crash in
Chicago, May 25, 1979. The DC-10 maintenance manuals clearly explained
the correct procedure for engine removal (it involved buying some
expensive equipment from McDonnell-Douglas), but apparently never
explained why it was a very very bad idea to avoid the fairly common
practice of using a forklift (cheaper and faster, and routine in the
aviation industry).

American Airlines chose to use the forklift. The result was a crash that
killed 273 people.

It's got to be a two-pronged approach. The steps should explain the
right way to do the procedure, the safety admonition should explain what
can go wrong if you don't.

Rick Lippincott
Technical Writer
American Science & Engineering
829 Middlesex Turnpike
Billerica, MA 01821-3907
978-262-8807 (direct)
978-495-2335 (mobile)
978-262-8702 (fax)

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