WARNING! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Subject: WARNING! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2011 13:36:58 -0400

How many of you are your own regulatory-compliance authority?

How do you KNOW that you have enough of the right kinds of statements, warnings, and disclaimers in your documents for hardware products?

Somebody just asked me for a sheet of all the warnings and disclaimers that I provide for a particular product of ours, that is being proposed for a big sale or partnership arrangement in some country somewhere. The person requesting the info very obligingly provided a Cisco document as an example of what was wanted. The Cisco document (for whatever product of theirs) had page after page of NUMBERED statements (each translated into about a dozen languages). The numbers went into the high hundreds, but the majority were skipped. That is, somebody knew that they needed just twenty three statements (starting at 17B and ending at 1079) for that product.

I don't have that.
I have an FCC statement, an equivalent CSA statement (also in French...), the CE logo and some little blurb, and that was about it.
No problems ever from anyone making noises about "We will punish you for not having this-or-that statement" nor about "We'd love to buy from you but we can't if you don't have this-or-that statement".

I only accidentally learned that it's a good idea to have a dual power supply warning on a product that has redundant power. I saw another company's doc for some product of theirs and thought "Jeez! That makes all kinds of sense!" So, I included a dual power supply warning (unplugging one power supply does not necessarily remove risk of shock; this puppy could still be hot) in the document refresh, about six months after our product was released. Nobody complained that it was missing from our original release. Not our QA or secret shopper. Not any customer (including government departments).

I can certainly sniff around the Weeb and find all sorts of statements that _could_ be included.
But it would not be long before we were killing six trees for every unit we shipped, just to print the warnings.

A previous, related thread had some people implying that every techwriter should be on top of all this stuff and be ready to go to jail or reimburse the company for any lawsuits if they miss something, while others thought that such responsibility should rightfully lie with the company's legal department, or at least a compliance manager/engineer who would merely provide a list to the techwriter.

Our own legal beagles have not gotten back to me yet.

If your employer sells hardware, how warm and fuzzy do you feel about the amount of litigation teflon you have applied in your docs? Why? What justifies that feeling, for you?

- kevin

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