WARNING! - This article may be dangerous to your health!




I guess I finally reached the superfluous information overload point when I purchased a new snowblower last winter. I have never seen a piece of equipment with so many messages! Some were quite helpful as they described the functions of the controls or location of the oil dipstick, etc. The majority however were warnings of one kind or another that can only politely be termed as “patronizing”!

I appreciate the fact that there is a fair number of our populace who are “mechanically challenged”, and who subsequently presume a screwdriver is a vodka based, orange flavoured alcoholic beverage which goes nicely with party snacks such as nuts and bolts. But is there truly a need to advise people, in both official languages, not to shove any of their appendages or, heaven forbid, clothing into the revolving snowblower auger? Or to not shove their hand down the snow discharge chute when the machine is running? I also have a new garage door opener that boldly cautions one not to stand under the door when it is closing. Both these new gadgets came with manuals, the first several pages of which are either disclaimers or warnings so banal that I would be offended - if I could read the small print!

In this same vein, I checked the instructions that came with our grass trimmer. They caution against immersing it in water or operating it in freezing temperatures. Do these people think that I’m going to take it swimming with me, or use it to clear snow off my driveway? My radial saw manual uses a wealth of ink to advise, “Keep hands away from cutting area.” Perhaps they envisage me attempting a manicure? Another gem in this document is the notice, “When using your saw, always stay alert and exercise control.” I don’t know about you, but when I operate a radial saw, I am probably the most alert person on the block, completely aware of the threat posed by the buzzing teeth and their proximity to my favourite body parts!

Have a look at your appliances and accompanying instructions for yourself. Check all the “Warnings”, Cautions”, “Danger”, etc. notices and question whether the majority are truly required.

By now, any manufacturer reading these criticisms would probably be ready to use me as a test dummy. However, I realize that our dear government’s hand can be seen in this and that the producers must obey some inane order to plaster their equipment and publications with this drivel. Of course there is also the legal aspect. That is, if someone suffers injury and the manufacturer has not included a warning or caution, then the lawyers can have a hey-day in the courts. Nevertheless, over the years this cautionary stream of once valuable information has become a flood! My big worry is that the really important information for the vast majority of us with even a smidgen of common sense will get lost in this plethora of unnecessary advice!

It is my contention that anyone stupid enough to blithely shove their extremities into moving parts, electrical outlets or other patently clear hazards is certainly not going to be deterred by such trivia as written warnings or vivid graphics. Why can’t politicians accept this fact and let the rest of us benefit from concise information regarding the operation of our equipment and appliances? Surprise, surprise! We do have a few “smarts” and don’t need to be constantly reminded of the obvious.

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