Product documentation standards and compliance

Wherever in the World you sell or import your products, you will need to ensure they comply with the safety standards and laws of each country you plan to do business in.

Failure to comply with a country’s specific standards can have consequences for your customers and your business. Knowing the standards and how they impact your documentation can help you avoid these consequences.

So what are the standards and how do you make your documents compliant?

What are documentation standards?

Standards are lists of criteria and guidelines that your product should comply to – many of which are related to product safety. Standards may be voluntary or mandatory depending on the product type and the region they are being sold into.

The standards also cover the information that you are required to have in your product documentation, as well as the form of your product documentation.

By following the standards provided by jurisdictions you can be confident that your products and the accompanying documentation can be supplied to a high standard.

EU product and documentation standards

In the EU the European Commission define the CE marking directives. These directives provide the requirements and standards for products sold and imported around the EU region.

The CE marking directives also cover documentation and user instructions. To find out more details about complying with EU product documentation standards, read our post about EU documentation standards and regulations.

US product and documentation standards

In the US product safety is regulated by various federal agencies.

After Congress has passed a product safety law, the appropriate federal agency, for example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), creates the regulations or rules to implement the law.

To find out more details about complying with US product documentation standards, read our post about US documentation standards and regulations.

Consequences of non-compliance

There can be consequences for non-compliance to the standards.

  • Product recalls
    The standards are designed to ensure a product does not place a user in a potentially dangerous or harmful situation. By failing to follow the standards you may be forced to remove your product from the shelves and fix products already sold. This can be an expensive operation.
  • Product bans
    If your product fails to meet the standards and the product is deemed to have fundamental design flaws that will cause harm, then you will not be allowed to sell your product. Not only will you incur scrap costs but your company’s reputation could also be harmed.
  • Lawsuits
    Failing to meet the standards but still selling products which then cause harm to a user, could leave you liable to expensive and very damaging lawsuits. This could, in particular the US region, be a very expensive situation.

All of these consequences could be the result of poor product design or manufacture. However these consequences could also be the result of poorly designed and written documentation supplied with the product.

How to ensure your product has compliant documentation

Compliant documentation needs to address the information and safety requirements of the standards to which your product must comply.

The following best practice will help ensure that your documentation supports your products compliance to the relevant standards.

  • Clear warnings and cautions
    Unclear cautions and warnings can lead to a customer missing important safety information.
    However incorrect or over-use of safety notices can minimise their impact and importance.
  • Concise and plain language
    Clear and concise text makes the content easier to understand, and, therefore more likely that customers will read and understand the content.
    In addition this helps reduce the cost of translation.
  • Clear and consistent document structure
    A well-structured document ensures that you cover all the required content, and makes it easier and quicker for a customer to find the information they are looking for.
  • Consistent layout
    As well has having a clear overall structure, a consistent layout for each section will help highlight key safety information.
    For example, placing safety information in the same place for each procedure helps customers find important safety information.

Does your product have compliant documentation

Do you know if you have compliant documentation?

Use our Documentation Audit Tool to test your documentation and find out how well your documentation complies with the current documentation standards.

Would you like to know more?

Audit tool
Product documentation standards and compliance

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