On 2 January 2011, WorkSafe Victoria launched a new advertisement that presents a new twist on their “homecoming” campaign. It focuses on the “door knock” – a process many police dread where they must inform the family of the death of a relative.
The ad is a fresh and new dimension on the long-running OHS awareness campaign and is welcome. The timing of the new ad – in the early weeks of January when many businesses remain closed, is odd but if the ad is placed in prime time viewing, the impact may be more significant than otherwise.
It is useful to re-read Yossi Berger’s perspective on WorkSafe’s advertising campaigns in the light of the new ad.
In a media release, WorkSafe’s Executive Director for Health & Safety, Ian Forsyth, says:
“We’ve had to take a tougher line because while death and injury rates are dropping, it’s not happening fast enough. It traumatises families, the community and business.”
The community has always wanted OHS regulators to be able to decrease injury and death quickly but this is rarely possible, a fact acknowledged by the Australian OHS regulators in 2002 when the ten-year National OHS Strategy was announced. The implication of a deadline in the quote above may be an acknowledgement that improvements in safety management and regulation need to be quicker.
Forsyth provides some statistics for Victoria’s performance in 2010:
“Twenty-three Victorians died as a result of workplace safety incidents in 2010, dozens more received life threatening injuries and more than 29,000 suffered the full range of serious, but entirely preventable injuries.”
Berger argues that advertising does not directly save lives and that better results may be gained by allocating the advertising budget to increase inspections and enforcement.
It could be argued that awareness-raising will never stop because there are new generations and new citizens who need to learn the lessons that their parents or their communities fail to deliver. The award-winning “Homecomings” ad campaign has been running for many years and it has won many awards but to what extent can it be granted the credit in injury and fatality reduction? Public health and safety advertising has always contained an element of the “dark arts” in that the cause and effect is often hard to identify but with such a long campaign surely WorkSafe should be able to quantify the contribution its “Homecomings” campaign has made to injury rates.