Using Warnings and Instructions to Increase Safety and Reduce Liability

Upcoming dates (1)

Jun. 5-8, 2023


Course Overview

Thoroughly developed warnings and instructions are the most cost-effective way to increase the safety of your product while decreasing your product liability exposure. Learn the current legal duty to warn, the latest ANSI standards that apply to product warnings, factors useful in evaluating effective warnings and instructions, and how to test and revise warnings and instructions.

The brochure for this course can be downloaded here.

Who Should Attend?

  • Managers 
  • Engineers 
  • Technical writers
  • Product safety specialists
  • Anyone responsible for creating or reviewing instructions and warnings

Additional Information

Although not required, course attendees are encouraged to bring ANSI Z535.4 and ANSI Z535.6 to class.

Course Outline

Module One

Duty to Warn and Instruct: Legal Responsibility

  • No guarantees
  • Broad and important topic
  • Key: Being organized
  • Theories of liability: Negligence/strict liability
  • Factors in determining whether a duty exists
  • Warnings vs. instructions

There is No Duty to Warn Where Hazard Is Open and Obvious 

  • Debate of what is open and obvious
  • Know the use of the product

Unintended/Unforeseeable Misuse 

  • Foreseeability
  • Know the use of the product

Environmental Test 

  • Modifications
  • Adequacy of warnings
  • Factors

Causation: Did the Failure to Warn Cause the Accident? 

  • History
  • Factors
  • Warnings/retrofit/recall

How to Improve Your Product 

  • Be organized
  • Documentation and its importance
  • The role of sales/service

Module Two 

The ANSI Z535 Standards for Product Safety Signs and Labels 

  • Guidelines for content of product safety signs (hazard nature, seriousness, consequence, avoidance)
  • Guidelines for the format of product safety signs (signal word, color, pictorials, word messages)

International Standards 

  • ISO standards for product warnings
  • EC machine safety directive

International Standard Harmonization 

  • US standards harmonization
  • ANSI Z535 revision
  • ISO 3864 revision

Durability Considerations 

  • Product environment
  • Product surface
  • Material choices

Team-Based Workshop Activity 

  • Evaluate warning
  • Develop recommendations
  • Team presentations

Module Three

Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings 

Integrating Product Safety 

  • How to conduct a hazard analysis
  • Designing instructions and warnings for users

Designing Instructions 

  • Who is your user?
  • What you see is what you read…or not
  • What to put in…and what to leave out

Designing Warnings and Safety Messages 

  • Liability prevention vs. product safety

Module Four

Evaluating Warnings and Instructions 

Evaluation Considerations 

  • When to evaluate
  • Evaluation methods
  • When and how to document
  • Evaluation workshop

Complete Evaluation and Final Adjournment


"The program is very well-rounded and covers each of the elements of warnings and instructions in a thorough, effective, and interesting manner."

"I'd be hard pressed to say what was best—there was so much useful information, and the outside experts were super."

"Good consistent information throughout the presentations. Everyone had the same message for action by companies for warnings and instruction."


Charles Burhans

Mr. Burhans is a Senior Consultant. His recent professional activities include development and evaluation of warnings and instructions and product literature, analysis of standards, accident investigation, and the development of safety training materials and product safety/integrity documentation. While at the University of Michigan, he was an Instructional Assistant for Product and Occupational Safety Management courses in the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department. Mr. Burhans is a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535.6 Subcommittee on Product Safety Information in Product Manuals, Instructions, and Other Collateral Materials. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in Industrial and Operations Engineering.

Angela Lambert

 Angela Lambert has over fifteen years of experience in product safety, warnings, and liability. In her role at Clarion Safety, she collaborates with manufacturers – as well as industry partners and advocates – on labels, signs and markings that can help reduce risk and protect people. That includes having a keen understanding of visual safety communication standards, as well as safety label content/design, color systems and print production. From a standards perspective, Ms. Lambert is actively involved at the leadership level in the ANSI and ISO standards for product safety. She is chair of the ANSI Z535.1 subcommittee, leading the standard that focuses on colors used in visual safety communication. She is also a delegate representative to the ANSI Z535 committee, to the ISO/TC 145 SC2 WG 1 committee (responsible for the library of ISO 7010 registered symbols and the ISO 3864 set of standards), and to ISO/TC 283 (responsible for the ISO 45001 standard). Additionally, she is the liaison for ISO/TC 145 to ISO/TC 283, acting as a bridge between the international safety label/sign standards and workplace health/safety standards.

Ms. Lambert is also an expert speaker on product safety and visual safety communication at universities and associations across the country. In addition to designing and producing best practice labels and signs, Clarion Safety specializes in guiding its clients through a streamlined process to implement cutting-edge visual safety communication systems in line with today's leading safety standards. The company also provides complementary services for comprehensive machine safety, compliance, and risk reduction. Clarion Safety is a member of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors, the U.S. ANSI TAG to ISO/TC 145 and the U.S. ANSI TAG to ISO 45001.


Patricia Robinson

Coronado Consulting Services LLC

Dr. Robinson brings a unique blend of skills and experience to her consulting. She began her work in instructions and warnings while serving on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering. In addition to developing curriculum and teaching technical communication courses, Dr. Robinson helped develop and served as the first Director of the Technical Communication Certificate program and served as Program Director for continuing education courses in technical communication, including product documentation. She continues to teach regularly at product safety conferences and seminars.

Not satisfied with being just an ivory-tower academic, Dr. Robinson left the university in 1991 to become a police officer with the City of Madison, where she worked as a patrol officer and later full-time training officer until 2000 when she left the police department and became Law Enforcement Education Director for the State of Wisconsin. She was the principal architect of an innovative curriculum redesign for basic law enforcement training throughout the state.

While working in law enforcement, Dr. Robinson continued her consulting part time, but in 2002 she decided to focus on consulting full-time, leaving Wisconsin winters behind for Arizona sunshine. Five years later, she returned to Wisconsin to take a position at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. As Executive Dean for Public Safety, she led the design and development of a $34.5 million state-of-the-art comprehensive public safety training center, which was completed in 2014. After enduring three of the longest, coldest, and snowiest winters on record during her seven-year stint in Appleton, she promptly fled back to Arizona, where she continues to write and consult.

She is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the ANSI Z535.6 Subcommittee.

Cal Burnton

Over a 30-year career, Cal Burnton tried and won numerous complex toxic tort and product liability cases, earning a national reputation for his ability to coordinate, manage, and defend product liability and mass toxic tort cases.  His national clients have included leading manufacturers and sellers of products such as chemicals, pesticides, health care appliances, medical devices, electrical equipment, firearms, printing presses, industrial machinery, and power tools. He has also served as national counsel for a well-known toy company on safety and regulatory issues.  Throughout the years, he has represented manufacturing and chemical clients in both federal and state courts in almost every state across the country.

Upcoming dates (1)

Program Director

Susan Ottmann

Contact Us