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ABYC helm warning for outboard boat

ABYC helm warning for outboard boats

Back in May 2015, American Boat & Yacht Council, ABYC, released their consolidated boat warnings. ABYC grouped several warnings together for helm and transom warnings on specific types of boats.

Earlier, we furnished a history of the development of ABYC’s consolidated warnings.

The Importance and Timeliness of This Review

Due to our specific interest in propeller safety issues, this review will focus primarily on the propeller and kill switch warnings.

We are especially concerned about these new consolidated warnings due to:

  • Problems with the consolidated warnings identified in the review below
  • ABYC’s Consolidated Warnings are on the agenda at their annual Standards Week (begins 11 January 2016). We fear many attending Standards Week will be under the false impression the consolidated warnings conform to ANSI Z535.4.
  • T-5 (ABYC’s information report on safety labels) is also on ABYC’s Standards Week agenda. We fear T-5 may be updated without addressing some of the issues relevant to the consolidated warnings.

While T-5 has many problems, issues, and challenges in its current state (2002 version), it does provide a vehicle by which information for designing boat warnings could be delivered to boat builders and others in the boating industry.

Read More→

We previously announced the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) consolidated boat warnings in our May 2015 post titled, ABYC Releases Consolidated Boat Warning Labels.

As we review those labels, one feature of several labels stands out, the excessive use of ALL CAPS.

As ABYC talks about the new labels, they repeatedly mention American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z535.4 standard for product safety signs and labels. We have not seen ABYC specifically say the new consolidated labels are in compliance with ANSI Z535.4. However, ABYC mentions ANSI Z535.4 frequently enough we anticipate many will think the new ABYC warnings are ANSI Z535.4 compliant.

ANSI Z535.4 says the preferred format is to use mixed upper and lower case letters. They go on to say the preferred format is to only capitalize the first letter in the first word in a sentence.

ANSI Z535.4 goes on to say the use of ALL CAPS for the word message is discouraged because it is harder to read quickly than lower case type.

ANSI Z535.4 does say a single word or phrase may be emphasized by the use of ALL CAPS on occasion.

Basically, extended use of ALL CAPS makes the warning harder to read. When most people read ALL CAPS THEY MUST READ ONE WORD AT A TIME (like you just did). The use of upper and lower case letters is more inviting and can be read more quickly. Boaters are more likely to read the upper and lower case warnings than ALL CAPS warnings, especially when the warnings are lengthy like the gas outboard consolidated helm warning.

Below we compare the existing ABYC consolidated helm warning for gasoline powered outboard boats on the left with an upper and lower case version of the same warning. Click on the image below to see a much larger image to compare them side by side.

ABYC Consolidated Helm Warning ALL CAPS vs. upper and lower case comparison

ABYC Consolidated Helm Warning ALL CAPS vs. upper and lower case comparison

The example of the helm label above is but one of several. Most of the new consolidated warnings extensively use ALL CAPS.

We strongly suggest ABYC reduce the use of ALL CAPS in their consolidated boat warnings.

We all know the real intent of manufacturer’s warnings is somewhere on a sliding scale between trying to prevent accidents and trying to protect themselves in court (many would insert CYA here). We hope boat builders have not slid the scale over so far they make the warning harder to read at the expense of thinking bolded ALL CAPS would be easier to defend in court (look, the injured party did not obey our warning and we even had it in bold type in ALL CAPS).

We encourage the industry to do the right thing and at least consider reducing the use of ALL CAPS text on the consolidated warnings.

We are currently in process of reviewing the new consolidated warnings and will be posting an extensive review. While we anticipate most of our ideas will not be incorporated by ABYC, we think this one (reducing the use of ALL CAPS text) has a chance of being accepted.



This post is one of several of on the ABYC Consolidated Warnings. Links to all the posts are supplied below.


This post is the second of a three part series on the new American Boat & Yacht Council consolidated warnings for recreational boats.

We announced the new labels in May 2015 in part 1, our post titled, ABYC Releases Consolidated Boat Warning Labels.

ABYC helm warning for outboard boat

ABYC helm warning for outboard boats

History of Development

Note – much of our story of the development of ABYC’s consolidated warnings rides upon work by others. Two sets of consultants plus Professional Boat Builder magazine each have published a history of a segment of their development. USCG’s National Boating Safety Advisory Council meeting minutes also provide a portion of the history. This posts identifies and pulls those previous documents together to provide a broader overview of the project. Read More→

0 Categories : History

American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has been working with Design Research Engineering (DRE), a consulting firm, for some time to develop a series of warnings that are grouped together (consolidated) for use on certain types of vessels (such as gasoline outboard powered open motor boats) in certain locations (helm, cabin, transom, occupant, deck). Some consolidated warnings use the signal word “Warning” and some use the signal word “Danger”.

ABYC’s May 2015 newsletter announced the release of the new consolidated warnings.

ABYC May 2015 newsletter announces consolidated warnings

ABYC May 2015 newsletter announces consolidated warnings

Read More→

2 Categories : Propeller Safety News

CED Propeller Guard Testing @ SUNY

CED Propeller Guard Testing @ SUNY

USCG released the new Propeller Guard Test Procedure / Propeller Guard Test Protocol earlier this week on September 11, 2013.

We have since had time to quickly read through it and have a few comments:

    1. The entire document appears to have been re-written since the October 2012 version. A quick comparison of page 3 of the new version and corresponding portions of pages 2 and 3 of the old version (both versions shown below) make that pretty obvious.

    The October 2012 version below talks about the tests being a way consumers could evaluate propeller guarding products, and how manufacturers might include test results on their packaging and advertising materials. They say its purpose was “to evaluate the essential safety consequences of installing a propeller guard on an outboard or sterndrive boat. Read More→

Many years in the making, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) released the final version of the Propeller Guard Test Procedure / Protocol today, September 11, 2013.

The US Coast Guard news release quotes USCG’s Phil Cappel as saying, “The report provides the means to evaluate the boat performance characteristics and the level of protection of personnel in the water resulting from the installation of a propeller guard on a particular sterndrive or outboard-powered recreational boat.”

USCG Propeller Guard Test Protocol

USCG Propeller Guard Test Protocol

One interesting note, the release says the test equipment required to conduct the testing will be loaned out on a first come, first served basis for the cost of shipping and insurance.

The procedure is scheduled for review in about 3 years, or earlier if necessary. Read More→

The recent UK Milligan accident really stirred up the boat kill switch lanyard issue there (they call them kill-cords). Are we the only ones that think it is ridiculous to have seven different keys?

7 boat kill switch keys as shown by JAG Trading Online

The 7 boat kill switch keys as shown by JAG Trading Online
JAG sells lanyards / kill cords on eBay

At one time, most drive builders builders had their own key design (Johnson/Evinrude, Mercury, Yamaha, Suzuki, Tohatsu, and Honda).

Here in the U.S., the Coast Guard and several boating safety organizations are trying to encourage boaters to use/wear emergency engine kill switch lanyards. Read More→

ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) and CED (CED Investigative Technologies) recently completed a draft of the Propeller Guard Test Protocol. We announced they requested public comment from interested parties by April 11, 2012 on our Propeller Guard Test Protocol Released by ABYC/CED for Public Comment page.

We sent in our comments today (April 11, 2012).


Effectiveness of Propeller Guards

CED Propeller Guard Testing @ SUNY

CED Propeller Guard Testing @ SUNY

About 2006 the U.S. Coast Guard began consulting and contracting with some experts to produce a test protocol for propeller guards. The American Boat and Yachting Council (ABYC) and CED Investigative Technologies are now finalizing that process for USCG. CED Investigative Technologies is a forensic engineering and accident reconstruction firm specializing in providing legal support to legal firms, insurers, and manufacturers.

ABYC and CED have completed the rough draft of their propeller guard protocol, titled “The Effectiveness of Propeller Guards” and are now putting it out for public comment before delivering the final draft the the U.S. Coast Guard later this Spring. Read More→