When it comes to product development, it can be easy to get lost in the basic logistics of design, testing, manufacturing, and marketing. But there are some tasks, like warnings and instructions, that are incredibly important but can get lost in the commotion because they don’t directly serve the bottom line of product development.

It is very common, particularly for complex products, that the product development process will take longer than you think it should, cost more than you think it should, and just be overall more difficult than you thought it would have been. Even if you are an experienced designer, that doesn’t mean that you are suddenly capable of predicting the future with such clarity and foresight than you can avoid every last complication hidden in the details of a product that doesn’t yet exist. 

Naturally, after finally making it to the other side of the product development process, you can be feeling pretty spent. This makes it all the more difficult to give things like instructions and warning labels their proper focus because you just want to be DONE with the design so you can move on. 

It can also be difficult for engineers, after all of the time spent getting the design to work, to sit back and think about how it is going to fail and how it might be misused.  

However, if you neglect to put together proper instructions and warning labels, you could potentially be putting users at risk and leaving an enormous liability gap.

I’ve noticed that many people tend to trivialize the importance of instructions and warnings. Often, comedians have even made light of these elements. They will, for instance, cite the warnings and instructions for products like pop tarts or ironing clothes, things that the vast majority of people are so familiar with that it seems unnecessary to instruct. Some humorous examples are shown in the links below:



While it might seem unlikely that anybody is going to get seriously injured in a pop tart related accident, this is definitely not the case when it comes to industrial equipment. Yet I sometimes see the same lackadaisical approach to warnings for equipment that you need to be trained to use. When it comes to heavy industrial equipment, like MEWP’s, power tools, and manufacturing equipment, a warning decal can be the last line of defense for a user who, for various reasons, wasn’t properly trained, was not provided with an operator’s manual, does not have proper PPE, or simply might have forgotten or isn’t paying particular attention to what they are doing. 

Particularly with industrial equipment, there is a very real possibility that decals can be damaged over time due to fading, cracking or being otherwise damaged. Because of this, it not only extremely important for product designers to take the time and effort to put proper warnings and instructions together, and print them on materials that are sufficient for the environments in which they will be used, it is also critical that private owners and rental companies make certain that damaged decals are replaced in a timely manner. Doing so could mean the difference between life and death.

If you have a product that you need to run a safety and hazard analysis on to determine what instructions and warnings will be necessary, contact Alpine Engineering & Design. Not only do we have licensed Professional Engineers on staff, we also have Certified Safety Professionals with extensive industry experience identifying hazards and reducing risks. We can help you close the safety gaps associated with the use of your products.