WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising

For the last few weeks WorkSafe Victoria has been running new injury prevention advertisements based on a game show theme of playing the odds on injuring a worker.  The curiosity of this campaign is that humour and a little bit of shame has been employed to communicate.

It is refreshing for an OHS regulator to use humour in the aim of improving workplace safety particularly as this attempt avoids the slapstick humour that has been tried in the past by several safety organisations.  Workplace injuries are not a laughing matter but a gentle humour can be used to prick the conscience of those who have safety obligations.

Conversations with OHS peers on these ads has shown a perplexity over these ads.  Those who have established a public face or a reputation in the safety field are unsure whether laughing or, at the least, being amused is appropriate.  There is a fine line between mockery and amusement so hesitation is understandable.

More comfortable for familiar safety-related humour comes from Mark Thomas with his assault on industrial or corporate manslaughter on UK television earlier this decade.  For those in Australia who are applauding the increased attention in OHS laws to corporate accountability and due diligence, all three parts of Thomas’ routine from Youtube are obligatory.  The first part is below.

John Culvenor makes a valid point in his new blog, safedesign, that WorkSafe ads ignore the relevance of safe design principles in eliminating the hazards in the first place. Culvenor says that “being clever or amusing is only useful if the message is useful.”  (Culvenor’s venture into the OHS blogosphere is a welcome addition)

Also, it seems overdue for WorkSafe Victoria or other Australian OHS regulator to provide a series of advertisements addressing the psychosocial issues of fatigue, stress and mental health.  It is very surprising that all of the increased community awareness of workplace bullying has not resulted in one real advertising campaign in Australia.

In 2009 Sweden tried an anti-bullying advertisement but it is a messy combination of workplace and schoolyard bullying.

But it seems for every anti-bullying commercial, there is also one that uses workplace intimidation in a distasteful manner.

The videos above show just how challenging the promotion of safe management and safe behaviours is and the risks of using humour.

OHS promotions get regular attention in SafetyAtWorkBlog; some praise, some bucketing.  However new strategies need to be attempted just in case another Homecomings advertisement appears.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

7 thoughts on “WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising”

  1. It’s easy to knock WorkCover Vic for these adds because they don’t present some idealised image of workers and supervisors. They also received criticism for their video of the public being involved in an fake “electrocution” and further back for their homecoming series. Thank god they didn’t give in to all the criticism but kept of plugging away. The purpose of the ads is not to provide some politically correct view of the workplace or of trying to be all things to all people they are about drawing attention to how choices made in a moment can result in serious injury and to do so in 30 – 45 seconds.

    I’ve watched all of the ads in this series ( and can relate to each one of them and I think they get the message across in a novel and entertaining way that is likely to be remembered.

    What other regulator in the country is doing anything similar?

    Good on you, WorkCover Vic

  2. Yes I have to agree, the campaign points the finger at the employee rather than failed systems … but I have to say Mark Thomas’ videos are brilliant! I watched all 3 parts and so much of what he said was bang on. He’s my new hero.

  3. Sadly once again in this campaign the worker looks like the “dork” maybe there is a need to support workers for the opinions and thoughts about safer working places.

    Interestingly this campaign reflects one we did some years ago..but it had a message and how safer workplaces could save young lives..and an outcome…followed by an interview with the mother of the young man who died.

    We need to see that workers are not dorks but human beings who want to go to work and come home safely.

  4. OHS professionals being uncertain about a regulator’s campaign is not news, in fact it’s traditional. From memory the same thing happened with homecomings.

    OHS professionals and consultants are not the target audience. The hard to reach audiences are workers at high risk, often they are on the margins. Part time, contract, labour hire, and so on. The people are often young workers, women, first-generation Australians.

    Show me a 25 yr-old female Somali OHS consultant’s opinion on the campaign? Or the results of the focus group testing?

    1. Spectator, I take your point but I find it hard to discern the target market for the latest ad.

      One of the frustrations with OHS promotion is that the owners or designers rarely state what they actually want to achieve. Raising awareness is a valid aim but cannot be the only aim. At some point action needs to be taken.

      The annual reports of OHS regulators sometimes have data about advertising campaigns but rarely is the media strategy published, or the success measured. I think WorkSafe would argue that a media strategy needs to be seen in the broader context of its inspection and enforcement policies, and this may be the case, but any macro-startegy is usually described in macro-terms and those are usually inexact injury claims data.

      OHS professionals arenot the target market but the discussion of the ads by us gives the campaign more “air”. Perhaps I should send WorkSafe an invoice for social media sevices?

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