New safety campaign – making the invisible visible

hi res moving cement vwaThe last week of October each year is Safe Work Australia Week.  This theme is enacted in each State with their own resources and events.  WorkSafe Victoria is one of the more active of the state regulators and 2009 seems no different.

On 13 September 2009, WorkSafe Victoria will launch a new campaign of graphic advertisements but what makes these different is the injuries result from “simple” work activities.  They are not in high-risk industries where workers may perform high-risk tasks.  These ads concern the (mis)use of an office chair, lifting a bag from a pallet, not using the stairs, slipping on a wet floor and lifting a person.

hi res office chair vwaThere has always been the challenge of how to generate interest in manual handling injuries as they are internal or invisible, and cumulative.  WorkSafe has done well by illustrating the physical consequences of what many dismiss as “taking a fall”.  In fact, the images that are less confronting than the noise of the bones breaking or the hernia appearing.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director, John Merritt, describes the campaign this way

“There’s no ‘blood on the floor’ or spectacular images on the nightly TV news or in the morning paper, yet the consequences of these injuries are enormous for individuals, their loved ones and their employers.

“For business, the average cost of treating these people through Victoria’s workers compensation system averages $45,000 per claim.

“Individuals lose quality of life and many, the capacity to work for at least a short period, some require surgery or have permanent pain and never fully recover.

“For employers productivity is cut, there may be staff replacement costs, retraining and safety improvements to be made after the event. Industries lose people permanently.

“Identifying and preventing these issues has benefits for all.”

Merritt also provides the statistic that  60% of all reported workplace injuries* – more than 17,000 a year in Victoria – involve manual handling.

The new campaign is graphic but it is hard to see how the total costs – social, personal and business – could have been described better.  Having a worker clutch their lower back and grimace with pain has been seen in campaigns and images repeatedly for decades and a new approach was needed.  Making the invisible visible should help.

Kevin Jones

* Based on Victorian Workers compensation claims where people are off work 10 days or more and / or medical treatment costs in excess of $520.

4 thoughts on “New safety campaign – making the invisible visible”

  1. Looks like a great campaign. In fairness, regarding the person on the swivel chair, I think it is highly relevant. The fact is that it is low level, a quick job and using the nearest thing to hand to carry out the necessary maintenance – facts that could lead people to using inappropriate tools. Yes it is stupid, but I have no doubt that a high proportion of non H&S people WOULD do this.

  2. Kevin,

    Yes, I thought the same thing about the \”stupid worker\” scenarios- but i guess the intended message is not just to employers to provide safer systems of work but also to remind employees of the risks. Standing on a swivel chair IS stupid, even if the employer is prosecuted this does not reduce the pain of the injured. As long as too many BS (behavioural safety) haters don\’t get too uptight, I think the ads have a chance of at least raising awareness 🙂

  3. I think these ads will capture attention, as you say Kevin, they make the invisible visible.

    These commercials do make me shiver a little, as much some of those awful, bloody & graphic commercials though, due to the icky sound effects.

    Hopefully, follow up commercials will have a more constructive message for employers i.e. what they should actually do to prevent these injuries- not just to talk about it

    1. Andrea

      I think some of the scenarios lend themselves to the accusation of the \”stupid worker\”. I mean standing on a swivel chair to access the ceiling??? But there is at least one, to memory the cement bag lifter, where the \”shortcut\” is done at the supervisor\’s insistence.

      Because each ad involves several scenarios, they require repeat viewing so that the workplace context is best understood.

      The sound effects are particularly effective. When I was involved in first aid training, in a previous life, we refined some radio ads that used silence. The one I remember particularly was a Mother on the phone talking while a baby was splashing in the bath in the background. Then the splashing stopped and the Mother realised the significance of the silence.

      The ad only ran for a short time in the 1990\’s as advertising was expensive but we should not underestimate the power of silence in the right context.


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