Shit safety campaign launched in Australia

On September 5 2012, the Tasmania Minister for Industrial Relations, David O’Byrne launched a new campaign to encourage businesses to prepare for new Work Health and Safety laws.  The name of the campaign is “OH S…”.

O’Byrne’s media release explains the campaign:

“OH S… is the understandable gut reaction of any worker, manager or business owner when they hear there’s been an accident in the workplace… This campaign uses that first reactionary moment to try and promote how workplaces can be proactive on work health and safety.”

It is reminiscent of the famous line by Bill Cosby when describing a car accident and a driver’s reaction:

“First you say it, then you do it”.

The wisdom of this campaign is questionable.  There could be a range of responses created in the media by various comedians, all to do with safety and shit, such as:

“Make the job safe, move that shit”.

“Don’t be a shithead with safety”.

“The top three priorities of this company is Safety First, Safety Second and Safety Turd”.

Bringing shit into the concept of safety is a challenge and could offend some of the old-guard that sees OHS as sacrosanct.  But it could be that such an advertising strategy for workplace safety is necessary.  O’Byrne says

“”We know that bland advertising often fails to capture people’s attention. This campaign takes a more irreverent approach to get the message across effectively…”

Will this approach work?  Perhaps the fact that I am writing a blog about the campaign proves that it will, to some extent?  The irreverence is likely to be the key to attention with the likelihood that those social media addicts on Twitter, Facebook and others, in particular, will run with the campaign and cause the Web2.0 generation to talk about safety.  It is not hard to see someone creating a logo of a pooh in a hard hat or a tweetmeme such as “OHS is shit when…..” (I am resisting the urge).

The risk is that such an irreverent campaign will not be sustainable as so many social media flashes in the pan are very brief and the attention span of the tweeters moves to the next flash.  Should safety be “used” in this way?  Is it being disrespectful?

O’Byrne’s media release may illustrate the strategy.  It launches a pooh-themed advertising campaign but follows with a bland statement of standard safety management. Paul Burnell, director of Ronald Young & Co, said his company is

“… taking a proactive approach to the upcoming changes with some of our work to date including a review of the Draft Codes of Practice relevant to the construction industry, weekly toolbox meetings as well as setting up a work health and safety committee and activity database…

“We are also hosting an information evening for our contractors, attending relevant training sessions, such as those being held as part of WorkSafe Month, and encouraging our workers and contractors to do the same.

“We recognise our responsibility to be aware of, and to implement these changes to ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of the day…”

No world-shaking innovations in what is proposed here.  But O’Byrne’s campaign is very likely to generate attention, discussion, and perhaps even criticism about the campaign’s lack of tastefulness but it is being discussed.

Oscar Wilde said that

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”

This may reflect the raw concept behind O’Byrne’s safety campaign, a risky campaign worth watching closely as Australia moves to Safe Work Australia Week at the end of October.

Kevin Jones

4 thoughts on “Shit safety campaign launched in Australia”

  1. Work Health and Safety Act 2011 No 10
    Current version for 6 July 2012 to date (accessed 10 September 2012 at 15:27)

    Part 5 Consultation, representation and participation

    Surprised no has mentioned the acronym for the above. Some lawyer\’s or public servant\’s joke no doubt. Probably thought it wouldn\’t get through.

  2. I rememeber calling our Safety Committee the Safety and Health Improvement Team (SHIT) – took ages for the bosses to figure out the acronym.

    Small minded but the guys on the committee found it quite inspiring!

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