Re: Contemporary Standards, Writing and Manufacturing

Subject: Re: Contemporary Standards, Writing and Manufacturing
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 09:32:33 -0400

Dear George,

Thanks so much for your comments. It's also a pleasure to hear
from someone who knows something about the manufacturing sector!
The guy's company made--of all the high-risk
things--truck lifts: elevators
used to lift heavy stuff onto trucks. They'd been involved in litigation,
I found out later. And he's a lawyer, who was more concerned apparently
with having a defensible position than with doing the job right. He never
did get his manual reviewed by the consultant I recommended; and the last
I heard, he had a guy who freelances for an ad agency write his last
product manual.

My testimony wouldn't have shielded him from a lawsuit, but it
would have demonstrated that he'd made an effort to improve the safety of
his product. And, of course, Erie Doc would've been involved in any
lawsuits. Given the product, I assume he's not a machine shop. I'd expect
he uses outside vendors...who he's probably implicitly placing at risk.

This aspect of tech documentation is probably growing in
importance, the liability aspect. Recently, in a local federal court, a
jury found in favor of a plaintiff against a heavy equipment operator
because the heavy equipment operator put warning labels on *some* of his
equipment, but not the piece that injured the plaintiff. The jury reasoned
that the manufacturer knew there was potential danger, as evidenced by the
presence of some warning labels, and that therefore the manufacturer was
guilty of negligence by not using the warning labels consistently.

This speaks to Jane's argument (hope it was Jane) for keeping up
at least with the *issues* in the field, so that you'll recognize one
before it blows up in your face. Maybe people who prefer to be amateurs
can call themselves secretaries!!


Mary Durlak Erie Documentation Inc.
East Aurora, New York (near Buffalo)
durl -at- buffnet -dot- net

On Thu, 23 Apr 1998, George Mena wrote:

> Dear Mary Durlak,
> Greetings from California. =) I was genuinely taken aback by the story
> you wrote:
> The CEO of a local manufacturing co. who wanted me to "review" a
> copy of a user's manual that a temp sec'y wrote for him. After reviewing
> it, he wanted me to write a letter saying that it "was up to
> contemporary technical writing standards"--*and* act as an expert
> witness should the firm be prosecuted!
> When I refused, citing my attorney's advice, he got testy with
> me. So I found him someone who would review the manual for him...a local
> communications professor with expert witness credentials...who charges
> $395 an hour for the service. The agency rate for the temp who wrote
> the manual was $12/hr.
> This guy sounds like someone who's a real loser and who has no faith
> whatsoever in his product line(s), his engineers, his incoming QA
> inspectors (probably didn't even have them), his production people or
> his (probably undocumented) manufacturing and testing processes, which
> is *not* good. I'm curious to know what his product(s) was. I'm also
> surprised he thought *your* testimony would somehow shield *him* from a
> product liability lawsuit when it wouldn't have.
> This is definitely one of the downsides of the manufacturing sector:
> the small shops like this one. The shop gets an order in from a
> customer to build a widget, hand-drawn sketch is faxed over, item gets
> built and delivered. Later, when the customer realizes he needs to have
> an engineering drawing for the part the outside vendor had made in order
> to pass an ISO 9000 audit, the engineer has to actually develop one in
> AutoCAD or have a tech writer like me do it.
> Unfortunately, it's the machine shops and the custom fab folks like this
> outfit that suffer when his customer(s) get slapped with a product
> liability lawsuit. The customer's been burned and doesn't want to do
> business with them anymore. By then, the customers have to find
> *another* shop and not necessarily a *better* one after the courts have
> handed the CEO his legal head. And the old machine shop doesn't always
> change its ways, either. After all, they *were* following the
> customer's instructions.

> George Mena
> Technical Writing Consultant
> George -dot- Mena -at- esstech -dot- com
> ESS Technology, Inc.
> 48401 Fremont Blvd.
> Fremont, CA 94538
> 510-492-1763

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