Danger, Will Robinson!

Safety is the prime directive when using any tool, and I don’t question that. What I question is the shear amount and incomprehensibility of most safety instructions.

I’ve griped here before that the safety instructions on a tool (any device, really) are often lengthier than instructions for the tool itself. The typical user manual may have six pages of warnings and only two pages that tell you how to properly operate the tool. This makes no sense to me. Seems to me that thorough, complete operating instructions would have the greatest positive impact on safety. This seems especially true when the long list of warnings and precautions frequently include mandates that make little sense.

When I bought my benchtop drill press, I was stuck by one warning emphasizing that the user should never stand on top of it. Who would do that? It seems to me that anyone stupid enough to use a benchtop drill press as a ladder would likewise be sufficiently stupid to ignore such a warning. (And, once ignored, followed with, “Hey, watch this!”)

Now as dumb as that warning seems, at least it’s understandable. I recently bought a cheap heat gun, and in the manual were the usual warnings you’d expect about electrical tools, both sensible and silly, but there was also this warning: “Modifications not approved by party/parties responsible for compliance may void user’s authority to operate this equipment.


I have no clue what that means, and after using the heat gun several times I wonder if I violated that warning and voided whatever authority I have left. I may very well have, but I really have no idea.

But at least I didn’t stand on it.



  • Will Ferullo says:

    These always drive me nuts as well. Unfortunately I think it speaks to two things. Our sue happy world, and the increase in stupid people. They put these warnings in for a reason, both to cover their butts, and probably because they have been sued in the past because somebody tried whatever it is they warn against. And all of the above goes back to people’s unwillingness to take responsibility for their own actions. That is like a long dead idea in our world today…..it actually makes me sick thinking about it.

  • Keith Rowe says:

    I recently bought a new smart phone. Among the instructions was this note, (summarized): Do not drop this phone into the water. If you do, do not use your microwave to dry it out. Duh!

  • Chuck R says:

    Cleverly written!

  • Dan Walters says:

    I once bought a rotary power lawnmower that included the warning “Do not operate indoors”. … Just as I was about to mow my shag carpet.

  • joe frohbose says:

    A typical step ladder has instructions & warnings on every step. If carefully read you’d never get to the top – although I believe this is a tool you are encouraged to stand on.

  • Chris Wong says:


    I recently bought a tablet and in the instruction booklet, one of the warnings was, “Do not disassemble tablet. It contains small parts which may be a choking hazard.”


  • Rich says:

    Actually the expression is, “Hey y’sll, watch this.” Followed by a Darwin award nomination. 🙂

  • Dezri Dean says:

    All of the “excess” in instructions and warnings came about because of lawsuits, some deserved and some not, by folks that got hurt in some way.
    All of this of course is due to the liberal attitude of some. (I am NOT saying that all lawsuits against manufacturers are bad)
    There are quite a lot of people that refuse to accept personal responsibility for their actions and instead choose to sue the maker which results in added pages of instructions and labels stuck everywhere.

  • Gary Schmidt says:

    A.J., I wonder if part of the problem is in the translations of instructions from who knows what language is spoken by the original writer of the instructions. I also agree with Will that it is CYA by their legal dept.. Gary

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