Is this how safety should be promoted?

One of the first OHS trade exhibitions for 2011 in Australia starts today.  Exhibitions like Safety In Action are the best opportunities for many health and safety professionals, representatives and students to update their product knowledge.  It is usually here where one finds out about non-steel capped safety footwear, new fall harnesses or the latest interlock devices.  But do these innovative products needs to be promoted by scantily clad women as in the picture on the right?

This has been a constant annoyance at trade exhibitions for some time and, in fact, some exhibitions in Australia in 2010 received complaints about this type of promotional strategy.  Scantily clad women do attract the attention of potential clients, particularly in male-dominated industries, but there is considerable debate about whether the strategy promotes the product or the breasts.

The picture above was on a large brochure for portable safety showers supplied by Spill Station Australia as a magazine insert in April 2011.  I checked these showers out at a Safety In Action trade show several years ago and the structure and portability are great features.  But:

  • What does this say about the safety shower?
  • What does it say about the company’s understanding of their clients?
  • Were all their male clients bottle fed?
  • Does this company have no female customers?

The image got my attention but has discouraged me from contacting the company about their product.

The safety profession, generally, needs to be more sensitive to how their profession is promoted.  In Australia, the profession is trying to encourage more women to join.  The heavy industries of construction, petroleum, mining and others, the trade associations are all encouraging women to seriously consider a career in those sectors.  Depicting safety equipment in a sexist, soft-porn fashion throws the safety industry and profession back decades.

Over the next three days in Melbourne, the Safety In Action trade show will be promoting safety products and services to over 10,000 visitors.  Spill Station Australia is listed as an exhibitor at this trade show and it will be interesting to see if this type of strategy is echoed in their stand display.  If Spill Station does not, it is likely that one of the other exhibitors will.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories advertising, business, culture, gender, OHS, safety, sex, UncategorizedTags ,

11 thoughts on “Is this how safety should be promoted?”

  1. I guess the issue should be, is the equipment any good at all and does it do what it claims to do!
    I\’m surprised that the shower company changed the image. Was it an admission of guilt?
    I suppose some of these strategies are part of the larger game called \’Marketing\’ and should be ignored unless offensive, considering the culture of the country.
    The Aussies should be able to digest this image. Muslim nations, well thats another cuppa!!!!!

  2. If the object of the exercise was to create interest in the company or the product then obviopusly it has worked because we are now talking about it. The advertisers of this safety product may have had the strategy that any interest is good interest even if the object of our interest is the way in which the product is advertised. Well done to the promotional people!! Would i actually purchase this type of shower for my business, well that depends on many factors and up until now, i did not know that this product existed. I do now!!

  3. The \’Tradie\’ magazine available from Mitre 10 has actually wound back its scanties because of (Japanese) advertiser concerns about a backlash against some products. Sex does sell and this particular young lady is quite fetching, but in the interests of balance perhaps they could put a big butch builder in the shower for the women in OHS next year.

  4. Thanks for all the great comments. I thought the article may generate some interest.

    The article above mentions a trade show in 2010, a reader has corrected me that it was 2009. The basic circumstances were that an exhibitor had hired two women to promote his stand. The women wore very revealing clothing and walked through the exhibition promoting the safety company.

    The organisers received complaints about the women from visitors and other exhibitors and the exhibitor was requested to keep any promotional activity to within the specific stand and for the women to dress more appropriately. It is my understanding that these operational parameters continue to be applied.

    There continues to be debate within the advertising industry over the merit of this type of activity. There was an adage that \”sex sells\” but whether sex sells the product or just sells sex continues to be argued.

  5. As a OHS professional that happens to be female, I make it a policy that any company that objectifies women in it\’s promotion won\’t get my business. If they were to put a scantily clad guy, there would be men not interested and howls of protest. Yet companies that employ this type of \”marketing\” forget that I being female, have a large network of like-minded professionals, work in a 1000+ organisation, have a huge external contact network, and really at the end of the day would have problems \”selling\” this product as my number 1 choice with such marketing to my Director, because we have gender and equity programs in our workplace too. Might be a great product, but until they realise there is a huge untapped market of women safety professionals who are turned off by this, their company sales won\’t look anywhere near as good as they could

  6. Politically correct nonsense, if it gets the necessary attention and is aimed clearly at a demographic prone to getting excited about such images and has them remembering the context, just maybe the message is getting out.

    Exhibitions should not be dry theoretical exercises, they must be vibrant and maybe a bit edgy to draw attention. A healthy well proportion body of a male or female is to be applauded

  7. As practitioners are aware PPE & Response Equipment are reactive OHS requirements which are part of OHS practices. Exhibitions will have these items for show. You wouldn\’t get away with this in a MUSLIM country. It has been a norm at exhibition worldwide… yes, we need to emphasize more on the MITIGATION of hazards all the time..

  8. I have a general belief that politically correct do-gooders are rapidly ruining this great country of ours. Sure there are differences between the sexes and I think most people appreciate this in a respectful manner.I find it difficult to see anything disrespectful or inappropriate in the issues you are talking about.I have worked with some really great female OHS people and the more the better I reckon.

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