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Practical Guides

Safety Notes and Warning Messages

Jens-Uwe Heuer-James, Roland Schmeling, Matthias Schulz

Since technical communicators have developed a growing awareness of product liability issues, safety notes and warnings have increased dramatically in all kinds of product manuals and handbooks. The American standard ANSI Z535.4 for safety signs and labels has frequently been adapted by them since the early 1990s.

That decade also saw the introduction of what are called “safety chapters” to manuals. Nonetheless, many writers are uncertain about the correct design and wording of safety notes and warnings.
Legislators around the world, particularly in Europe, have set minimum rules concerning both the content and presentation of safety-related information. In 2012, an international standard – IEC 82079-1 – covered the subject in more detail. This guide introduces tech writers to the legal regulations and rules set in diverse standards and provides practical suggestions on how to apply the rules in their daily work. 

Overview of the Requirements

In this context, tekom is publishing this Practical Guide to Creating "Safety Notes and Warning Messages" in Instructions for Use. Its main purpose is to give technical communicators an overview of legal and normative requirements. Here, the entire spectrum of topics is covered in two respects: First, the sources for requirements were analyzed not just for Germany and Europe, but worldwide, and the rules compiled. Second, the perspective on the products and industries covered was expanded.
However, the guide does not deal with requirements for the following areas:

  • Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics
  • Food and animal feed
  • Hazardous substances

Moreover, all information is presented from the perspective of a manufacturer, not an employer or operator. For this reason, this volume contains no requirements for the socalled “work instruction” provided by an employer to his employees.

Decision Aid, Not “Rules”

This guide is not meant as a “set of rules” in the sense of standard or mandatory specifications, but rather, a decision aid. The current standards present a comparatively wide framework that gives technical communicators great structural latitude. This latitude must be described. At the same time, those who prefer clear rules will receive them, as the guide contains clear recommendations illustrated with examples.

How the Guide Is Structured and How to Use It

Following the two introductory chapters, the guide contains two chapters with an overall view of the legal and normative requirements for safety-related information (Chapters 3 and 4). To aid in finding relevant information quickly, Chapters 3 and 4 are structured hierarchically according to three criteria:

    Legal requirements

    • Region (Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Europe, USA, Brazil, People’s Republic of China, Russia)
    • Cross-sector requirements
    • Industry-specific requirements

    Normative requirements

    • Region (Europe, international, USA)
    • Cross-sector requirements
    • Industry-specific requirements

For many technical communicators, Chapter 5, with its recommendations on implementation, will be particularly valuable. The guide is rounded off with the definitions of significant terms as well as an index of abbreviations and a bibliography in Chapters 6 and 7.

Bibliographic Data

Safety Notes and Warning Messages
DIN 4, 80 pages, 2018
ISBN 978-3-944449-56-2 (softcover)
ISBN 978-3-944449-66-1 (ebook PDF)

The Authors

  • Jens-Uwe Heuer-James, partner in the “Commercial” field at Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft since December 2011
  • Roland Schmeling, CEO of SCHMELING+CONSULTANTS in Heidelberg
  • Matthias Schulz, independent technical author and translator

Buy This Publication

Please use our fax order form for your order and either send us a fax at +49 711 65704-99 or email us at info(at)tekom.de

  • softcover: 100.00 EUR (for tekom members: 65.00 EUR)
  • ebook PDF: 85.00 EUR (for tekom members: 55.00 EUR)
  • bundle offer: When you purchase the softcover version, you receive the ebook PDF at half Price.

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