Safety & Tech Manuals.

Subject: Safety & Tech Manuals.
From: Richard Lippincott <rlippinc -at- BEV -dot- ETN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 1995 11:07:01 EST

Well, here's another Monday-morning topic. Although I could be wrong, I have
a feeling this is an area that impacts hardware tech writers more than software
documentation. (We kinda sorta came near this topic recently, but didn't
actually hit on the questions that I'm asking.)

In our lawsuit-prone age, is anyone noticing a trend for tech manuals to become
"safety manuals" at the expense of procedural clarity? At my company, there is
a tech writer who deals with the machine's maintenance manuals. Admittedly, an
ion implanter is a nasty thing, with high-voltage, radiation, mechanical, and
toxic chemical hazards. He's found that increasingly there are additional
changes requested at a review by our safety organization. He's forced to include
more and more warnings in the procedural flow, each warning containing precise
words and data. Even the use of an icon warning system isn't helping, he's
finding many pages are turning into one or two small steps and the remainder
is simply warnings, cautions, and notes.

The result is a manual that's unreadable, unusable, and likely to be ignored
by the technician. (So, now the warnings do no one any good.)

I've seen similar trends at other companies, as well.

Is this becoming common? Is there anything we can do about it? And, is it
creeping into software documentation as well?

Rick Lippincott
Eaton Semiconductor
Beverly, MA
rlippinc -at- bev -dot- etn -dot- com

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