Warning Labels or Signs: Do yours make sense and do they work?

The only constant in life is the speed of light (so they say) so your warning labels need to be written to be alive and changing.


We write warning labels so that they are designed to last forever and cover everything. Again, like a constant, nothing lasts forever. So how do you write warning labels?

Identify three different warnings you need to tell your customers about.

1.     Those they need to see every time they use the product.

2.     Those labels your customers need to read to cover your butt and the legal ones (warranty disclaimers).

3.     Those you don’t know about

Group One

Let’s start with the first group. These warnings can be broken down into several questions to help you identify them.

A.           Does your product work the same way every time? If not you may need a warning label.

B.           Does your product have something that if used incorrectly will cause an injury and is done in such a way that the consumer needs reminded of it every time your product is used?

C.           Is there a warning that all of your competitors are using.

Group Two

The second group is a mix of information your customer needs to know, the information your customer can only learn from you; the information needed to protect your customer from every aspect of your product, including hitting someone on the head with it.

Finally add the legal disclaimers needed to CYA.

The label should state the maximum load the product can handle, divided by 3, the maximum stress labeled at 25%. You need to give yourself room for bad testing on your part and wild accusations on the part of your customer. The basics; hot, cold, electrical, wet, storage, heat, sun, freezing, those things that hurt or could kill your customers or ruin your product.

The final thing is the newest and the scariest. You must keep your customers informed of any changes or updates to your product as well anything new you discover about your product. A critical part of this is learning that your product is being used in a way that you did not anticipate or used incorrectly.

The good news is you can use your company website to inform people of the risks.

This is an emerging area of the law, now well-formed and not in all states. However, you can either take a marketing opportunity and make it possible CYA or be late to the game.

Your warnings must sense.


One of my favorite signs.

Rules for riding the amusement ride. The ride is for little kids, who CAN’T READ! The sign says you can’t weight more than 170 pounds, but your knees would be bumping on the floor.

So is a warning sign effective if it can’t be seen? What if it can’t be understood? What if it can’t be read because the reader cannot read?

Do Something

Rules for Warning Labels

1.   They have to be readable, the first day through the last day of the product.

2.   They have to be found, easily, by someone using the product properly and if used improperly is a real possibility, seen by those using the improperly.

3.   They have to be readable. The print size must be large enough so that you can read them without glasses at the distance appropriate for the product and the warning.

4.   Labels have to be warning labels and marked as such. It can’t be cuddly bears showing what not to do or kittens. It should say Warning in big bright bold letters with the warning under it.

5.   You don’t search for warning labels; they are in your face.

6.   Any warning not to do something is the possible injury or problem is located. If sticking a pin in a hole would cause an injury the warning label needs to be next to the hole.

7.   All Warning Labels must be repeated in the owner’s manual. Important warning labels may need to be on a hangtag.

8.   The packaging, the owner’s manual and the warning label all must say to read all warnings.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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By Recreation Law  Rec-law@recreation-law.com      James H. Moss         Jim Moss

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