Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Documentation: A Matter of Life and Death

It's not likely that a responsible government agency or company would prepare sloppy documentation for a life and death undertaking, such as decommissioning a nuclear warhead. But what about the thousands of companies doing business in China that have farmed out their user manuals for consumer products to non-English speakers? These companies have disseminated untold millions of items into the U.S. market with poorly written user and assembly instructions. Is this a matter of life and death?

Ask Robert and Susan Cirigliano, whose six month old son was smothered when he was caught in the drop-down panel of his Chinese-manufactured crib. Mr. and Mrs. Cirigliano told their horrendous story to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Investigations, in Washington on January 21, 2010. Their son is one of at least 43 children who have died in cribs with faulty drop-down panels, and the Consumer Product Safety Administration is now overseeing a recall of over 1.5 million possibly defective cribs.

As Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) noted during the hearings, the cribs are even more dangerous when they are improperly assembled, and they are improperly assembled when distributed with poorly written instructions, which is often the case--especially when companies cut corners by hiring writers who are not native English speakers.

The smart company doesn't scrimp on documentation. It's a matter of life and death.

1 comment:

  1. CSC you are so right about this matter. I do not think any one of us reading this account has not had at least one experience with poorly or incorrectly written instructions. And sometimes, like this sad example, it can be a matter of life and death. A word of caution to big companies...put your money where it matters most to consumers on the pages of the instructions as they stand alone with your product in pieces on the floor... once they leave your showroom give them a hand, give them the tools with properly written documentation, matching alphabet guides and exact diagrams which will allow them to "build" a good lasting impression of your product and your company not a devastating one. Write on, CSC!