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Monday March 14, 2016

ASTM Warnings Panel Struggles with Left Justification

ASTM's ad hoc panel on warnings might add additional illustrations to their work to clarify that left justification does not necessarily mean a margin 90º to the direction of text. That is because concern continued during a March 8 discussion that labs might fail labels that members intend to be acceptable. The work group had been considering using only one figure to show an ideal label, but now might also include some examples of allowable though not ideal.


The challenge grew out of worries about available warning space on some products (PSL, 2/15/16). The goal is to ensure flexibility by allowing labels that follow the slant or contour of a product edge. There had been similar concern of labs, especially in Asia, failing labels in column format, thinking left justification means a single, far-left margin.


The difference between ideal and allowable involves use of shall (required) and should (recommended) and three formatting elements. The panel is considering saying text shall be left aligned, ragged right, whether or not in columns, but should be in outline format and with bullets.


This means both outline and bullets are optional, allowing for both, either one, or even neither. CPSC human factors engineer Tim Smith told the group that agency staffers have some discomfort with the idea of some variations, such as lack of bullets that draw attention to each point. However, they are willing, for now, to accept the option but might revisit the issue if label clarity becomes a frequent problem.


Another spacing issue is abbreviated labels that point to longer ones (PSL, 2/15/16). These would be at the ideal spot to be conspicuous, and manufacturers would use them if the available space were too small for the full label. To avoid overuse – another CPSC worry – the panel likely will strengthen the language from using limited to using prohibitive to describe such restricted space.


Ad hoc panel leader Kitty Pilarz, of Mattel, also sold the group that ASTM has not heard back about copyright issues with the ANSI Z535 warning series. The work group has been considering using large sections of Z535 in the ad hoc document, but would need to ensure it has permission from NEMA, which owns the work. However, an alternative is to cite Z535 provision and indicate any differences (PSL, 2/29/16). Pilarz told the panel that she did a mockup of the latter option and found it to be an easier-than expected task.