Stupid Warning Labels, But Not The Kind You Think

Warning Labels May Not Always Work

We’ve all seen the caution us not to do idiotic things or remind us of the obvious.  “Remove infant before folding stroller” and “Do not use toaster while bathing” are two examples that come to mind at random.  But what about warning labels that really do need to convey important, non-obvious information?  They can be stupid too.

We were manufacturing an assembly that included a small DC motor with an in-line planetary gear reduction.  Imagine something very much like a cordless screwdriver mounted to the side of the machine.  This provided a very inviting handle sticking out, but the gear housing was plastic and the cantilever load would cause it to break if you tried to lift it by the motor.  Solution: A warning label.  It looked something like this:


Labels were printed up on Avery label stock and dutifully applied to every motor on every assembly before it was shipped.  Problem solved, err, not quite.   No one thought to carefully look at the label after it was applied, because hey, we already know what it says, right?


Our situation has not improved.

Here’s another story.  The product used a hollow-shaft, right angle gearmotor that was symmetrical front to back.  A careless service technician could very easily install the motor backwards and everything would fit up fine until you turned the machine on.  The backwards motor would spin the machine the wrong direction and Bad Things would happen.  In fact, this issue came to light when one of our own guys made just that mistake.  Solution: A warning label.


Nope, you can very easily pick up the motor with the wrong side facing you and install it in the machine with the very helpful “This Side Out” label facing in and never see the label.  I suggested a more effective solution: A label on the wrong side:


But nobody reads the darn things, anyway.