The increasing prevalence of pictorial social media has generated a surge in organisations generating “infographics” from workplace health and safety statistics Almost always these images are a technique for generating internet traffic through established websites, blogs and other online services. Fundamentally it is stealth advertising for the unwary online user. However, such images have much greater legitimacy when offered by OHS regulators.
In the week prior to its WorkSafe Week 2012, WorkSafe Victoria issued two online infographics as part of a media statement. Both are attractive by their simplicity but the simplicity can also be a problem.
The cost comparison infographic is super general but clearly illustrates that the cost to prevent harm is much less than any fine that may come from prosecution. However, the risk of being prosecuted in Victoria and receiving a monetary penalty seems to be declining as non-pecuniary penalties, such as enforceable undertakings and others, are made available to the Courts.
Fines are only one of the potential costs. An inescapable cost is the cost to the injured worker, the disruption to that worker’s family life, the disruption to the worker’s employer.
Earlier this year SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on comparative injury cost data that showed the worker continues to carry the majority of the cost burden from workplace injuries.
“Between 2001 and 2009 (latest available data) the total cost burden on community stakeholders, such as taxpayers and compensation scheme participants, has reduced by 32% (from 52% to 21%)
- 6% of this decrease shifted to those employers responsible for the workplaces in which these injuries/illnesses occurred
- 94% shifted to the injured workers and their families….”
An infographic showing the total (estimated) cost of injury may be more enlightening and could assist in motivating employers to initiate positive safety changes in their workplaces.
However part of the purpose of this infographic is to complement a media release available on the WorkSafe website where additional information is available, particularly good information on how to make machine operations safer. Terrific information but the risk with the infographic strategy is that the image becomes the story and the “hook” to feed back to the webpage with the message is less important.
In social media, it seems that pages with images gain greater visitor numbers but whether the visitors read the webpage is difficult to prove. Often pages with images have higher statistics because people are trawling the internet for an image, through image-specific search engines. No matter that SafetyAtWorkBlog contains thousands of words about safety and over 1,500 articles, the most popular individual page remains one containing a cartoon on bullying and no other information.
The map of pain
The second infographic relates to a “map of pain”. This illustrates the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria that have the highest rate of machine-related workers’ compensation claims. The infographic is interesting but what does it tell us about reducing workplace harm? Very little.
Over the last few years, WorkSafe Victoria has been trying new strategies in the online world and the pain infographic may be part of a strategy to provide content to the online news services. It may also be an acknowledgement of the newspaper industry’s move to online and the desire to spoonfeed, particularly, the remaining suburban newspapers.
The pain image also says much more about the economies of suburban Melbourne that anything about safety improvements and harm reduction. Significantly the City of Greater Dandenong residents received over $A20 million in workers compensation from just machine-related injuries since July 2007. Interesting from a sociological perspective but will it change workplace behaviours? Unlikely.
WorkSafe Victoria is probably the most effective of all Australian OHS regulators for their online presence but it, like almost all safety regulators, is missing discussing the emerging OHS issues in the online media. Machine-related injuries are from well-established risk areas and are relatively simple to map, but the issue of workplace bullying has not been given the same social media attention even though the major workplace bullying issues over the last few years have been within the internet-savvy demographic. The website containing the infographics above has nothing on workplace bullying and nothing specifically on fatigue, yet bullying is a substantial fear for new young workers and fatigue seems to underpin many OHS incidents, including machine-related incidents.
Only the other day, an OHS legal specialist described these “soft” psychosocial issues of fatigue and bullying as the hardest workplace issues to manage. In much of the OHS discussion, the soft issues are missing and yet it is on these difficult matters that the conversation needs to begin in order to develop effective strategies to combat them. How different machine-related injuries may have been now if, in Victoria, the infographic communication strategies above had been applied when the Code of Practice for Plant was revised from the prescriptive to performance base in around 1995. Yes the internet was not in existence then but it is now, and OHS regulators need to start discussions now so that when the emerging hazards finally do “emerge”, the regulators and business are in a strong and knowledgeable position to act.
OHS regulators need to realise that more context is often required to maximise the benefits of both online and traditional communication methods. You may not be able to control how the information is used but you can ensure that the information is authoritative and seen by the audience as valid and relevant. WorkSafe Victoria’s attempt is refreshing and promising and should lead the way for other safety regulators.