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.