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.