Dialogue with no understanding.

Simplify instruction handbooks?

• 3 min read

Do you have problems reading instruction handbooks? At Troax we understand, nearly none are straightforward or written with a standard structure. This can be confusing for anyone. An instruction handbook should be easy to read and interpret. Unfortunately, not every instruction handbook supplied with machinery complies with these requirements.

An apple and a pear trying to communicate.

Today’s difficulties

Often, handbooks are not translated into the local languages, which is a requirement according to the Machinery Directive. Just as often it is written in a way that is difficult to understand, making it hard to interpret for the end user. It is not easy to produce an instruction handbook for an operator that doesn’t share the knowledge of the new machine.

What is common knowledge for the constructor can be complicated for the end-user...

...resulting in handbooks that are difficult to read and interpret for installers, operators and maintenance personnel. Further difficulties can be noticed by comparing the content in a couple of instruction handbooks, you will notice they do not share the same structure. e.g. warnings, the intended use, residual risk and reasonably foreseeable misuse. Often they are found on the last page, and the manufacturer has forgotten some important information.

Three areas of improvement

    Where shall all the important mandatory information be located e.g. warnings, the intended use, residual risk and reasonably foreseeable misuse?  It should be located on the first pages of the instruction handbook. This will ensure an easy to navigate instruction handbook with a standardised format. Not one depending on the author’s set-up.
    It should also be written so it can be understood by the reader (user). Before writing an instruction handbook the target group needs to be considered to ensure that this group would understand the instructions. The typical target groups are installers, operators, maintenance personnel and technicians. People who interact directly with the machine and the task they perform should be identified.
    A further important issue is a requirement for an index, glossary and annexes. This should be defined in a structured way.

The communication plan from today until tomorrow.

The solution!

There will be a new standard that states guidelines of how the structure of instruction handbooks needs to be written. At the end of 2018 or early 2019, ISO TC 199 WG5 will finish the drafting of ISO 20607 “Safety of machinery - Instruction handbook - General drafting principles”. It is out for balloting by the DIS (Draft International Standard) and currently at stage 40.20. It is an enquiry until 12.04.2018 and by that date, all the local member bodies can comment on this proposal. The conclusion is that an instruction handbook shall be drafted in a standardised way all over the world. Along with the req­­­uirement that...

...the instruction handbook will need to be available close to the operator's workspace,

not put away in a locker or a drawer. Ensuring it will always be accessible when required!


Kim Dahl, Machine Safety Specialist
Kim Dahl
Machine Safety Specialist