This Article provides a guide for participants in the supply chain to communicate product risks in the most effective manner to prevent injury where prevention is possible. It suggests how liability rules should be congruent with this same public policy goal. Part II of the Article details the special challenges inherent to effectively warning users of the potential dangers posed by industrial products, while Part III sets forth criteria for meeting these challenges in the workplace. Part IV considers the development of the law in industrial product warnings. Part V then analyzes workplace safety under the current liability structure, and recognizes that warnings are not the end-all, be-all for worker safety. Finally, Part VI examines the responsibilities of the relevant parties to maintain effective communication and prevent workplace injury. The Article concludes that placing a duty to warn on raw material manufacturers and industrial suppliers regarding the potential dangers associated with the varied conceivable end uses of their products is both inefficient and impractical. Of equal importance, such an obligation subverts the goal of effectively educating the end-user of the product so that he or she avoids inury. Injury prevention through effective warnings may also not be attainable in certain applications where proper training and safety equipment are essential. Existing legal principles, such as the sophisticated user, bulk supplier, learned intermediary and substantial change doctrines, recognize the importance of placing the responsibility of developing and communicating warnings with the party that is in the best position to do so. In the context of workplace hazards, that party is most often the employer. Thus, where the workers' compensation system, and its incident-based premiums, place responsibility on employers to protect their employees from hazards related to industrial materials, the product liability system should, in tum, avoid placing manufacturers and sellers of the materials in a position where they are compelled to provide redundant, incomplete, speculative, conflicting, or otherwise ineffective warnings.
Victor E. Schwartz and Christopher E. Appel,
Effective Communication of Warnings in the Workplace: Avoiding Injuries in Working with Industrial Materials,
73 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol73/iss1/2