Safe Work Australia is gearing up for National Safe Work Month

Last year, Safe Work Australia (SWA) gambled on a series of online videos and live events through National Safe Work Month in the form of Virtual Safety Seminars (VSS). VSS provided good online content that continues to be viewed but such a safety communication strategy should stand up to questioning, particularly if it arises from a Government agency.

One of the most important elements of any safety communication strategy is to attempt to measure its success.  The strategy may be aimed at raising awareness of an issue, providing information or promoting a service or product but the important part is to structure the strategy so that it can be measured and for that measurement to occur.  The OHS sector in Australia has a tradition of trying something because it is a good idea and then considering the effort to be a measure of success.  Too many strategies magnify awareness of an issue of which the community is already aware rather than developing a strategy for change, and of tangible change. In some ways the community’s tolerance for awareness over change is starting to wear thin.

With this in mind, SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions to Safe Work Australia:

Last year’s VSS was a test for a new approach to National Safe Work Month. Was it a success and how was this success measured?

Held in lieu of a conference, the Virtual Seminar Series reached a larger and more diverse audience than a more traditional face-to-face event.

The seminars exceeded their defined measures of success. Safe Work Australia’s target of 2 000 participants was met by day three of the program, and there were 11 500 participants during October 2014. The two live panel sessions attracted 650 participants.

Between 1 October 2014 and 31 January 2015, Virtual Seminar Series webpages, including videos and accompanying resources, were viewed 62 180 times.

Survey data showed that 97 per cent of respondents rated the seminar items they viewed as “relevant” and “informative”, 91 per cent indicated they would share seminar items with their colleagues, and 98 per cent said they would like to see the Virtual Seminar Series run again in 2015. Participants commented on the innovative format and enjoyed the variety of presentations, noting they were tailored to suit diverse audiences.

Two Australian universities have developed activities based on the seminars for their post-graduate management students. An international university and a local registered training organisation indicated their intention to incorporate seminar material into their programs. The Agency has been asked to convert some material into teaching tools, and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Broadcasting service sought permission to use content to show on their channels.

What were the five most popular VSS seminars viewed by the end of 2014? And why do you think these were most popular?  What is the most popular VSS including figures for 2015?

The five most frequently viewed seminars between 1 October and 31 December 2014 were:

  • Walking the talk by Mark McCabe, Dr David Borys, and Rod Maule – 3 October
  • Moving up the culture ladder by Prof Patrick Hudson – 7 October
  • Work health and safety challenges and opportunities by Prof Dennis Else – 2 October
  • Leading a positive safety culture by WorkSafe SA – 30 October, and
  • High performing, sustainable workplaces by Dr Chris Stevens – 7 and 8 October.

The five most frequently viewed seminars between 1 January and 30 June 2015 were:

  • Moving up the culture ladder by Prof Patrick Hudson – 7 October
  • Safety culture and leadership by Prof Patrick Hudson – 13 October
  • Work health and safety challenges and opportunities by Prof Dennis Else – 2 October
  • Walking the talk by Mark McCabe, Dr David Borys, and Rod Maule – 3 October, and
  • Safety on outback stations by NT WorkSafe – 28 October.

Participant feedback indicates they valued that the seminars were delivered by known work health and safety industry experts, academics and leaders. Participants also felt the seminars provided information and advice that was relevant or applicable to their own workplaces.

Did VSS have any viewer feedback options?  Was any sort of survey taken?

Yes. Participants could complete a short survey regarding each seminar and a more comprehensive post-event survey.

What lessons were learnt from last year that have led to improvements in 2015?

Overall, participation rates were high and participant feedback was very positive. Due to the popularity of the two live panels, Safe Work Australia will deliver four in 2015.

In 2015, we will use social media engagement before, during and after the event to stimulate discussion and information-sharing amongst audiences, and to broaden the reach of the seminars into audiences outside the work health and safety profession.

The 2014 strategy seemed to apply just to National Safe Work Month. Now that the VSS is being repeated, is there a longer term strategy or are you taking it year-to-year?

Safe Work Australia has no current plans to comprehensively change the Virtual Seminar Series format or delivery method. Like last year, Safe Work Australia will evaluate the seminars to inform future decision-making. While the seminars are delivered as a key activity for National Safe Work Month, they are available on the Safe Work Australia website as a lasting and free resource.

What support have you sought or received from the corporate sector, OHS profession or trade unions?

This year and last year Safe Work Australia sought and received contributions in the form of speakers, case studies or video presentations from industry, unions and work health and safety professionals. The 2015 program will be finalised and published in late August.

One of the business sectors that is traditionally hungry for simple OHS information is small business.  Has this sector been specifically included in the topics being covered in VSS 2015?

Yes. Like last year, small business remains a focus for the 2015 seminars.

Small business owners, businesses servicing regional and remote areas, industry, trade unions, work health and safety professionals and academics are either target audiences for, or involved in, the production of the 2015 seminars.

One of the challenges I had with last year’s VSS was that the live sessions occurred in normal business hours stopping me from participating due to full-time work.  In VSS 2015, are any of the live sessions occurring outside normal business hours?

Unfortunately no, all four of this year’s live panels will be held during business hours. Safe Work Australia will also be running additional work health and safety discussions on social media throughout the month. These discussions will not be restricted to business hours.

All seminars will remain on the Safe Work Australia website as a lasting and free resource. This enables those who can’t watch the live sessions to view the sessions at a time that suits them.

Another issue I had was some of the 2014 sessions were so long that I was not able to watch them during business hours or my lunch break. Has the 2015 VSS sessions been given any time limits?

Safe Work Australia’s research indicates that some participants found the seminars too long. While we have not dictated the length of each contributor’s 2015 seminar, we have provided them with this feedback. This enables contributors to consider the length of their seminar based on the subject matter and intended audience.

VSS 2014 seemed to be dominated by OHS academics.  Will this be the case in 2015 or are some of the users of OHS participate?  Perhaps, small business owners, OHS students, trade union HSRs, farmers, rural/regional people…?

Safe Work Australia’s research indicates that participants valued that the seminars were delivered by known work health and safety industry experts, academics and leaders.

Small business owners, businesses servicing regional and remote areas, industry, trade unions, work health and safety professionals and academics are either target audiences for, or involved in, the production of the 2015 seminars.

What is the intended viewing audience for the 2015 VSS seminars?  How has this differed from 2014?

Each year the Virtual Seminar Series is targeted at work health and safety influencers – those who influence work health and safety policy and practice.

In 2015, we will work to broaden the reach of the seminars to audiences who can influence work health and safety policy and practice but do not typically see themselves as doing so. For example, human resource professionals, engineers, architects, supervisors and designers.

How was VSS seen by the State OHS regulators?  Was there cross promotion or was promotion mainly through SWA?

Safe Work Australia Members, including work health and safety regulators, provided the majority of last year’s content. All agreed that the 2014 seminars were a success and they should be run again in 2015. All Members promoted the seminars through their own communication channels.

Will the Federal Industrial Relations Minister be participating in the 2015 VSS?  Or will a different Minister (Prime Minister?) be participating this year?

The Virtual Seminar Series program is not yet finalised. More information will be available on the Virtual Seminar Series web page in the coming weeks.

Previous National Safe Work Months have included Safety Ambassadors.  Is this going to be repeated for 2015?  How many Ambassadors undertake events specifically for the month?  Does SWA see a risk of the Safety Ambassadors being used as marketing tool by participants?

Safe Work Australia is taking a slightly different approach to National Safe Work Month in 2015. For example, the electronic information kit, which includes materials for organisations to use within their own workplaces, will be made available to everyone through the Safe Work Australia website. This is different from 2014, when the information kit was only provided to those who signed up to be a ‘Safety Ambassador’. The aim of this change is to make the materials accessible to a greater number of workers and organisations.

Safe Work Australia made the role of Safety Ambassador very clear on our website – to raise awareness of work health and safety in their workplace during safety month by organising relevant events and activities, distributing information and communicating key safety messages.

National Safe Work Month was supported by an app.  Was this successful and will it be repeated in 2015?

Following its popularity and positive feedback last year, an app will again support 2015 National Safe Work Month. The app will be free to download and aims to encourage participation in the month and associated events. The app will include a list of jurisdictional events being held around the country during October, a link to the electronic information kit, the Virtual Seminar Series, safety statistics and other features. This app will be available for download in September, with instructions provided on the National Safe Work Month web page soon.

Kevin Jones

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