Truth, justice and the safe way

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.”

An article in the Canberra Times really angered Dr Long and the comments from Impact Comics‘ Mal Briggs are of questionable worth.

“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.

Kevin Jones

8 thoughts on “Truth, justice and the safe way”

  1. It is no mean feat to get change and innovation happening in any sector, and generally accepted and adopted into in any walk of life.

    Mark\’s comment: \”The problem is not just a disconnect with kids. It’s an inability to move on from the past.\” makes me wonder if we should be approaching this from a different angle.

    IMO even with the Hazardman scheme, we are still trying to drive change from a position of authority, specifically the regulator. To my mind the vulnerability in this regulator driven approach is with acceptance and credibility. At a credibility level I feel disinclined to support this initiative based on a recent experience when I attended a seminar, given by the same regulator, that was targetting the construction sector. The Commissioner was clearly out of touch with the reality of working outside the Public Service when he suggested that every trade working even as a subbie, on a construction site, should attend a daily start up meeting \”it only needs to be a few minutes\”. He suggested that where there is a tradie or subbies who might be working on multiple sites in one day they could send a delegate to each of those sites, daily. The room was silent in disbelief. However given that this regulator is from the Govt stable that, seemingly without consultation, dreamed up the idea to ensure a shortage of volunteers at charity fundraisers BBQ\’s, I should not have been surprised at all.

    To ensure the message is accepted by young people it should be designed and delivered by young people. Perhaps there is merit in seeking funding to establish a project designed by young people for younger people to establish a program that suits their style and technologies and therefore they will own it and let it grow from the bottom up. I see an opportunity here for a scholarship or industry sponsorship of some kind that attracts a team to devise a 2020 Workplace Survival Initiative (I am sure there could be a better label but you get the drift). Given the social networking capacity of 17-20 year olds today this team likely knows it\’s individuals already with particular talents in say, innovative engineering, leadership potential, IT design, education, don\’t know what else… The ultimate outcome being a revamped education program that is applied in stages, each level of school K-12, industry induction programs and workplace specific implementation, which the kids are bringing with them because it started in Kindy. The kids will bring the message home and influence parental behaviours. I am not sure Hazardman will have the longevity to do the same, so a follow up scheme would be terrific.

  2. If we keep on going down this path of aiming for the perfect message then we run the risk of \”paralysis by analysis\”. I don\’t believe I have seen a campaign yet that hasn\’t been followed by a barrage of criticism and various individuals claiming to have the only valid viewpoint. As Oscar Wilde said\” the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about\” if we continue to pan every campaign that is put out there then we run the risk of safety not being talked about. Let\’s wait 12 months as Kevin suggests and see what positives (if any) have come from the campaign.

  3. One might have thought that several thousand years of human history might be a useful place to start when attempting to get people to behave in ways that perseves life rather than destroys it

    You may have some idealogical difference with the 10 commandments, but more than 3000 years of history reflected by the story about the giving of the commandments shows that: imposition of the law is useful to establish the documented ideals and guidelines, but the literature and history also shows how ineffective the imposition of law is at achieving its own goals.

    It is the reinterpretation of the spirit of the law (the essence behind it) as against the letter of the law (the letter of the law killeth, but the Spirit gives life) that conveys the good news.

    The task is both to warn and to encourage at the same time.

  4. Dr Long\’s article certainly is passionate.

    Across this country we still have our regulators struggling to connect with industry. The vehicle for carrying the message has changed, but the language still remains the same.

    Go to any workplace and mention \’hazards\’, the insomniacs will be overjoyed. Let\’s talk about \’risk\’, the yawns are truly jaw breaking.

    Workplace safety has been unable to adapt its language and resulting image over the past 20 years and as a result appears to most people as a tired old lecturer in his brown velour jumper.

    The vehicle for the ACT campaign is contemporary, but the message and language is the same. To drive a campaign of risk management at youth is very low percentage (IMO) to start with…they\’re teenage kids for gods sake. They are indestructible legends in their own lunch boxes.

    Ask kids to \’spot the hazards\’ and you won\’t get a response. Ask them \’Show me what can kill you\’ and you have engagement. Let\’s ignore the technicalities of language (the velour jumper brigade can academe that to death), but focus on the purpose of our message.

    We still deliver obscure mixed messages. Having attended the SafeWork SA awards last week, two key things sprang to mind.
    Firstly, there is an inherent passion for achievement and shared self preservation in the workplace. The award finalists were genuinely interested in sustainable outcomes and tailored solutions.

    Secondly, and disappointingly, the descriptive videos made by the regulator, were a wonderful promotion for PPE. regardless of the industry, location or award category, all people in the videos were wearing vests and helmets.

    So we are still screaming the PPE message at the top of our lungs.

    Perhaps its time we reinvented our industry and dragged ourselves into this century.

    The problem is not just a disconnect with kids. It\’s an inability to move on from the past.

    1. Mark, I have been privy to the perennial arguments of \”hazard\” vs \”risk\” and found them just as tedious.

      Recent WorkSafe Victoria advertisements acknowledged the difficulty of talking safety to young workers where the workers\’ aim is to impress the employer by being helpful. That helpful desire can place workers at a higher risk of injury because the employer has made some assumptions about the knowledge level of the young worker. The desire increases the willingness of young workers to place themselves at risk at the same time operating from am immature knowledge of the risks involved.

      The language swap you mention was evident in the controversial Dumb Ways to Die campaign. That campaign was criticised for showing injuries, even cartoon injuries, but these injuries were seen as the consequences of poor, uninformed, or immature decision-making. Hazardman doesn\’t take that tack and Dr Long may be right in the psychology of the campaign but Hazardman\’s nemesis is Complacency on the part of employers and workers, according to the backstory. This nemesis is often mentioned by safety professionals who are struggling to improve safety in their own workplaces, and should form a greater part of the campaign.

      On the matter of safety awards, I struggle with awards for OHS management systems. These seem to reward compliance when we should be rewarding exceptional performance and innovation. To win an Oscar you have to be the best actor, not just turn up to work each day.

  5. I would think his comment about it backfiring and being more successful is probably based on the fact that in today\’s Internet world, if something is terrible the word of mouth viral spread will push it out to more people, with more people commenting on it, thus spreading the message further. Its the general message that matters, not the carton.

    1. Brett, perhaps I am too close to Safety but in the case of Hazardman I think any backfired attention would discredit OHS further than than is already occurring. Would kids say \”LOL this is so dumb, I am going to work safer\”? I don\’t think so.

      As Mark mentions above, the \”message\” is aimed at one of the toughest demographics for non-commercial issues. The road safety advocates have been struggling for this a lot longer than the workplace safety ones, and they have the police to enforce the laws. OHS advocates must rely on well-intentioned business owners and the occasional Health and Safety Rep. OHS inspectors are nowhere near as well resourced or prominent as the police and never will be.

      I think that WorkSafeACT\’s should be supported as, at least, a fresh attempt, and we should acknowledge that the campaign has only just been launched. Perhaps the most significant information from the Hazardman campaign will come from an evaluation of it in 12 months time (if one is planned). This may just show that such a campaign does not work and should not be used in the future. If it does, it will be saving people a lot of time and a lot of money.

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