Warning labels are ubiquitous. A quick survey at any store and the warning labels on almost every product gives the impression that everything we buy is lethal. That's not the case, however.
Labels warning about every conceivable misuse of a product are company's way of trying to protect itself against product liability suits. One of the biggest spurs to product warnings undoubtedly was the infamous McDonald's case, where a woman took a cup of coffee to her car, placed it between her legs and started to drive; her legs were scalded when the coffee spilled. In the initial judgement against McDonald's, she was awarded $2.7 million. Now McDonald's and other fast food vendors put big warnings on their coffee cups: "Warning: Contents Hot."
Some warnings can also mislead people about real risks. For example, warnings on baby walkers that children can fall down stairs while using the walker misses the real danger that open stairs are dangerous for small children and that parents should have a gate or rope or door in front of the steps. whether the toddler is in a walker or not. The baby walker warnings and other product warnings may lead people to believe that they are not responsible for supervising theor children or for using products properly. This is a big mistake which could result in otherwise avoidable accidents or even a tradgedy. Taking care to use products properly will help avoid accidents whether or not there is a warning label.
Some people may think that these are the very people that need warning labels-that it is important to protect those who are least able to protect themselves. But the people most likely to misuse a product probably won't read and follow the advice on the label.
The main problem with excessive warning labels is that if you warn people about everything, you may succeed in warning them about nothing. The real hazards may be lost in the information overload. With so many warnings and so many of them obvious, the average person may ignore product warnings that caution about real risks, such as not using cleaning solvents near open flames.
So, is there anything to be done about the appearance of obvious warning labels on products? Probably not in the short run, unless our legal community pushes for a return to common sense standards. In the meantime, Consumer Prodigy recommends we should read product warnings and directions on how to use products and remember that many accidents are caused by the misuse of products than by the products themselves.
Below is a list of typical warnings on products. Some of them are real and some are hypothetical. (made-up) See is you can tell which ones are which:
1) Kitchen stove: "Warning: Do not burn wood in the oven."
2) Box of staples: "Caution: Staples have sharp points for easy penetration so handle with care."
3) Car sun shield: "Do not drive with sunshield in place."
4) Automobile doors: "Do not leave the car when it is moving."
5) Sled: "This product does not have brakes."
6) Marbles: "Choking hazard-This toy is a marble."
7) Soda bottle: "Warning: Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing serious eye or other injury."
8) Plastic bag: "Warning: This bag is not a toy."
9) Roller Blades: "Learn how to control your speed, brake and stop."
10) Microwave oven: "Do not microwave living animals."
11) Electric Blanket: "Warning: Do not use on people insensitive to heat."
12)Ball Point Pen: "Causion: Tip of pen is pointed. Do not put tip in or around eyes. Can cause serious eye damage."