Many years ago the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) won a WorkSafe Victoria award for a colouring in book. From memory the book depicted construction work so that children could understand what their parents do while the kids are at school. Since that time many companies have produced safety calendars from children’s drawings and train companies have created safety jingles and animated videos about decapitation. On 28 October WorkSafeACT launched a comic book about Hazardman.
Dr Rob Long rips the campaign to shreds in a blog article,concluding with
“It is amazing that the Regulator can impose this indoctrination campaign on the school system and now we learn that Safe Work Australia is going to roll it out throughout Australia. Fantastic, what a wonderful way to prepare our children and inoculate them against the realities of risk.”
The WorkSafe ACT Commissioner, Mark McCabe says in a media release:
“Hazardman is a light-hearted and engaging way to get young people, who are amongst our most vulnerable workers, or future workers, talking about workplace safety,” and
“We are setting the tone for the working lives of our young people. In turn, this will create cultural change in years to come as they help to build safer, more vigilant workplaces,””
Clearly the comic and the campaign is intended for long term cultural change and it is important to note that the comic is only part of the campaign. WorkSafeACT says:
“This initiative will also provide a suite of resources for use in any workplace that employs young people. WorkSafe’s initial focus, aside from school students, will be workers in the construction, retail and hospitality sectors.”
McCabe also points out that WorkSafe is willing to piggyback of the teen cinema audience:
“an animation which Mr McCabe said will be played as a cinema advertisement before films targeting teens and young adults this summer, such as Thor and The Hunger Games”.
The website includes factsheets and teaching resources. One factsheet simply describes the hierarchy of controls, a simple concept that is often neglected but is the foundation of many safety actions. The SAFE acronym could be very useful and is much better than some earlier incarnations such as Find, Assess, Fix. The factsheet expresses the hierarchy as:
“Eliminate – Get rid of the hazard, e.g. put grated matting on floors to keep spills off the floor surface.
Substitute – Swap it for something else, e.g. use a natural cleaner rather than a chemical-based one.
Isolate – Separate the hazard from people, e.g. move really noisy equipment to a separate area.
Engineer – Build or create something to prevent the problem, e.g. put hand guards around a slicer.
Administrate – Inform people about the hazard so they know to be careful, e.g. put up a warning sign.
PPE – Wear Personal Protective Equipment to keep safe, e.g. wear a pair of goggles.”
“Impact Comics co-owner Mal Briggs said whether or not the project itself was well-received, it would likely be memorable – which would make it a success either way. ”
“Comics are a really, really simple way to get a lot of information across quickly,” he said. “If it backfires it will be more of a success I think.”
Really?? Success through failure?? Not sure. The Canberra Times journalist, Hamish Boland-Rudder, understandably approached a comic book shop owner for a comment on a comic book but as that is only part of the campaign, an advertiser or safety communicator would have been a better choice.
Briggs does the campaign no help by emphasising the comedy even though he is making a similar point to the intentions of the Dumb Ways To Die campaign.
“There’s no way they can be expecting people to take the actual presentation itself seriously. So the idea is you laugh at the poster, but in doing that you remember the detail of it. I think the cheesy badness of it will become a strength … If it was played straight too many people would write it off.”
The difficulty lies in balancing the attention-grabbing humour while generating the intended behavioural change.
Mark McCabe says that
“All the reception has been quite phenomenal, really. Every time young people have been exposed to it … over the last six months or so, they’ve always been quite engaged with it”.
The market research in support of McCabe’s comments is not publicly available but SafetyAtWorkBlog is keeping an open mind on the Hazardman campaign as a safety professional who is over 50 years of age was never the intended target market.