A Good Read: The Instructions

If you’ve used one stapler, you've used them all, right?

That's what one assembler thought when he got a new staple gun at work. He loaded up the heavy duty stapler, braced the gun with his palm, and accidentally fired a staple deep into his skin.

The worker assumed he knew how to use the equipment. Had he taken a few minutes to read the instruction manual, or looked closely at the stapler to see how it actually worked, he would have avoided the injury -- not to mention the embarrassment.

The U.S. Naval Safety Center describes this incident to sailors to impart a valuable lesson: You can do a job without injury after spending three minutes reading the instructions, or spend three weeks recovering from an injury because you didn't read the instructions.

Why Don’t People Often Read Instructions?

* Our excitement and impatience to use a new gadget overrides any thoughts of safety.
* We assume we're smart enough to figure things out on our own.
* The prevalence of "plug and play" devices reduces consumers’ interest in understanding how products work.
* Consumers assume products are made as safe as possible, particularly if they carry quality assurance marks or are a well-known brand.
* Manual sometimes are not user-friendly (difficult to comprehend, too long, or printed in type too small to read, etc.).

Manufacturers have a responsibility to produce products that meet safety requirements. They also are required to include instructions for assembly, use, maintenance and disposal of a product, as well as any warnings about safe operation or handling. Particularly important is relevant information about risks that may not be immediately obvious to the user of the product.

But the consumer has an equal responsibility in using a product safely, which means to:

* Read instructions for safe usage and conditions, assembly and installation, storage, cleaning, and repair or component replacement.
* Retain instructions for future reference, especially if you will use the product infrequently.
* Heed warnings about the hazards of improperly using a product.
* Insist that other family members who might use the product also read the instructions.

If a product that should have an instruction manual does not come with one, do not use it. Contact the manufacturer immediately and have one sent to you.

If you can’t understand a product’s instructions, call the company and get your questions answered.

-- Kenneth Krause

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