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Improving Tractor Safety Warnings: Readability Is Missing

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 16(3): 181-205. (doi: 10.13031/2013.32042) @2010
Authors:   E. Tebeaux
Keywords:   Operator manuals, Safety, Safety manuals, Safety warnings, Tractors

Research on tractor safety has not focused on user manuals. This study focuses on tractor operator manuals, specifically safety warnings, selected from the files of the Tractor Test facility at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Analysis of many common warnings, based on readability and legibility research, shows that many warnings contain excessive information, confusing visuals and safety icons, poor document design, and illegible typefaces. The result is unreadable warnings that do not communicate quickly and correctly, and discourage readers rather than clarify critical information. Many tractor operator warnings are cluttered, "over-written," and contain information needed to protect the manufacturer rather than to inform operators. What is needed is a careful analysis and revision of many safety warnings with the goal of encouraging operators to read the warnings and follow their message.

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