Getting safety promotion right

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has come in for a lot of “stick” over the last few years by seemingly over-reacting to OHS hazards.  In many cases, these reports have come from a misinterpretation of OHS rules and guidelines or a misunderstanding of the basic principles of safety.  In some cases it is simply a beat-up my England’s tabloid media.

However, this attitude to safety and the creation of a misperception of OHS has annoyed the HSE.  Below is a video that the HSE produced, going by the tone of the video, in response to the bad press.

The “Right People” campaign seems familiar to many other campaigns attempted around the world and the introduction depicting silly headlines shows that the HSE is think-skinned.

Much more successful is the HSE’s recent campaign about safety in farming.  Taking on the modern leadership technique of  issuing a pledge, a commitment or a contract, the HSE has appealed directly to the farmers and the farming families over injuries and fatalities rather than focusing on the mechanism of the injury, such as quad bikes.

The HSE farm safety safety campaign talks about “the promise”.

This campaign came to our attention through an audio appeal and explanation by Judith Donovan CBE, a non-executive HSE board member.  It is peculiar for a board member, and not the Chair, to be presented in this way but it indicates a teamwork and a board-wide commitment to safety rather than being on a board so one can “pimp” their CV.  The audio is available below

Make The Promise progress report by Judith Donovan CBE

The Make The Promise campaign is also supported by videos and case studies that are heart-wrenching and have a truth about them that exceeds the impact made by the Homecoming campaign developed by WorkSafe Victoria.

The video case study of Andrew Purvey is a great example of short film-making as well as safety promotion.

The video of Ian Davey is less successful because he survived his electrocution.  That sounds brutal but as Ian and his wife talk about his incident, there is a clear contrast with the words of the relatives of Andrew Purvey.  The fragility of life and the whims of fate show that one family exists in despair and another enjoys their good fortune.

What the Davey video shows is the “promise knot” that is a cornerstone of the Come Home Safe/Make The Promise campaign.  Carrying such a knot in one’s pocket with the keys or the mobile phone provides a constant reminder of safety.  The concept should be taken up by other farm safety advocates and OHS regulators.

The two videos above show a remarkable and telling contrast between safety promotion strategies.  Sadly they come from within the same organisation but the most recently produced video shows enormous promise.

What is not known is the viewing  and distribution strategy of these campaigns.  If they are purely online, are they meeting their target markets?  Getting TV exposure is hugely expensive and, if targeting the young worker, increasingly ineffective as online and mobile communications become inseparable from teenage hands.

A clear indication from the Purvey and Davey videos is that change in the agricultural sector will only come from children seeing safe practices as an integral element of farm life.  In this sector, particularly, safety improvement seems to be generational.

If generational change is the reality, it will be difficult for safety promoters and advocates to maintain enthusiasm and optimism over such a long term however we may yet get to the luxury of remembering, if old age allows, “a time long ago when people used to die doing that job.  It doesn’t happen any more, thank God”.

Kevin Jones

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