As a companion piece to SafetyAtWorkBlog’s recent article on quad bike safety it is worth looking at the latest hardcopy edition of The Weekly Times, an influential agricultural newspaper in Australia. It is useful to look at how quad bikes are being depicted in the advertising and some of the content, as online versions have different adverts. The content will vary, of course, from edition to edition but a snapshot sample is interesting.
Over the last couple of weeks in Australia, the arguments over the safety of quad bikes (sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)) has become messy. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is in favour of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) but the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) is not. Doctors and farmers are calling for a five-start safety rating for quad bikes. One researcher says such a scheme is ready to go. The manufacturers’ industry representative, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says no it’s not but here’s a new helmet to wear.
Around all of this is remarkable silence about legal action launched against the Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe, by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BRP over WorkSafe’s interpretation of a legal safety duty.
All the while farmers in some States are continuing to access generous safety rebate schemes. Continue reading “Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars”
Over the last week SafetyAtWorkBlog has been included in two “best of” lists. One, from smartcompany, is the second year in a row and the other is from a UK website that includes this blog in a list of over 70 health and safety blogs. Readers are encouraged to look at the other blogs referenced in the articles as there are more start-ups every year both in Australia and elsewhere. To those involved in the awards sites, many thanks.
“Keeping workplace health and safety processes up to date is vital for your business, but it’s a complicated area that can sometimes be left as a secondary priority. Workplace consultant Kevin Jones continues to investigate key issues in the area in his Safety at Work blog and uses current events as a starting point for lessons for business owners. Topics covered over the past week include what effect the film Deepwater Horizon, which features the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, will have on public perceptions of health and safety.”
“Run by Kevin Jones and based in Australia, it covers a wide range of workplace safety topics. The Australian insight is a true delight and there are topics on here that we rarely see anywhere else. It is obvious that Kevin has a wealth of knowledge on workplace safety and if you have a spare 20 minutes listen to his ‘Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast’”
On November 15, 2016, the NSCA Foundation (NSCAF) and Westwick-Farrow Media (WFM) announced a new publishing deal for one of Australia’s few remaining occupational health and safety (OHS) publications, National Safety. The media release was very upbeat about the change but the reality is that Australian OHS professionals and business operators will lose a free, hard-copy source of safety information, Safety Solutions.
National Safety magazine is a good magazine that, although long promoted as the journal of the NSCA Foundation, has a good reputation for independent and informative OHS articles and seems to have had a loyal readership amongst OHS professionals. There had been no hint that the magazine was “in trouble” or that a change was warranted. Safety Solutions has more of an advertorial approach and seems to appeal more to the small business owner and OHS professional who is more focused on the manufacturing industry sector. The magazine has existed since 2002 and has been a consistent presence. Continue reading “Another safety magazine bites the dust”
Proud to be one of ThunderMaps’ “Top 5 health and safety blogs”.
“Direct, holistic, and genuine is what you can expect to find in Kevin Johns (sic) – an award-winning Australian H&S advocate’s blogpost. Kevin has successfully tackled H&S at both macro and micro level. From convincingly arguing workplace safety as a critical part of bigger business environment’s picture and that it “cannot exist outside social, economic and political contexts”, to educating business about specific issues of H&S such as suicide prevention, he has successfully done them all.”
Safe Work Australia (SWA) has formally launched National Safety Month. National Safety Month has existed for many years and is ostensibly a marketing exercise about workplace safety. As such it is worth looking briefly at the marketing of occupational health and safety (OHS) messages.
Campaigns can work well when there is a trusted and high-profile figure to be a spokesperson for the cause and, ideally, provides a testimonial or relevant back story. OHS in Australia lacks such a person. Safety messaging almost always comes from the heads of regulatory agencies or business leaders whose public profiles are minimal. Some prefer low profiles and when coerced to speak in public, often when on video, have a stilted delivery that limits the appeal.
If National Safety Month really wants to cut through into the mainstream media or to the broadest audience, it should have a message from the current Employment Relations Minister or, even better, the Prime Minister, at least. National politicians guarantee media attention even if the entirety of the message is not used or explained. State safety authorities have often been successful in gaining the support of their local Minister.
(A conference organiser trick that is regularly played in Australia is that if you want the Minister to open an event, let them know that if they cannot attend, the Opposition Party’s Shadow Minister has expressed an interest. The Minister then reprioritises the event.)
It is difficult to get Ministers’ time and even harder to have them on television or online video. People understand this inconvenience and struggle, and the effort to get the Ministers seems to add strength and authority to the issues Ministers talk about. If National Safety Month, or the various State-based events, does not have the relevant Minister speaking at an event or in support of the event, or if the month goes by without, at least, a ministerial media statement, the community can justifiably say that the Minister does not care about workplace safety, even when they have responsibility for the portfolio.
Most Australian OHS regulators have an online strategy in support of National Safety Month. Over a decade ago when these strategies were introduced, the move online was almost always because it was seen as cheaper. The minuscule size of the audience was rationalised with “if you build it they will come”. The supposed success of many of these online strategies has not come from the subject matter, OHS is still seen as boring or a nuisance by most. Online OHS marketing is, like so many others, riding the wave of technological change rather than affecting change itself.
Growth and success has come from the penetration of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media that pushes information to the audience bypassing the traditional media controllers who almost always ignored workplace safety unless there was a catastrophic disaster of multiple fatalities.
A minor but recent example of how the longterm media ignorance of OHS has changed media strategies is that WorkSafe Victoria offered no passes to the media for its awards night on October 7*, as it had done for most of the previous awards events. WorkSafe seems to have become disheartened with the lack of mainstream media attention its awards received so it stopped inviting the media as a whole. The blanket exclusion is an odd decision given that WorkSafe Victoria has a strong online presence which would have been further strengthened by, at least, using the network of social media influencers.
The fact that WorkSafe Victoria has reconfigured its awards event back to an evening event and dinner is a further indication that the current WorkSafe is different from the previous incarnation under a conservative State Government. However its difference is not new as it is more a return to what occurred in the past and what was seen as successful, just perhaps not in a media sense. This “return to form” may reflect the expectations of the regulator, its stakeholders, the OHS profession and lobbyists but it has still failed to penetrate the editors’ interests in the next day’s newspapers. The Herald-Sun newspaper does include a full-page ad (pictured above)about the winners but this would have been paid for. Even so, it is a greater effort that in previous years where the ad was lucky to be a half-page.
Safety is too hard
The challenge of advertising about workplace safety is that the audience cannot buy safety; they must earn it, they must apply it, they must think about it and they must talk about it. But largely they don’t. It is seen as too complex and costly. This perception has largely come through the politicisation of OHS from both extremes of politics and so OHS marketing has needed to consider the political juggling of its stakeholders, particularly when those stakeholders are embedded in the development of the safety message and the communication of the safety message through the tripartite consultative artefact, as they are in Australia.
So there are few options left available to safety regulators. Safe Work Australia has chosen to add to the OHS body of knowledge and evidence through continuous release of reference documents and the Virtual Safety Seminars and podcasts which is the SWA’s main National Safety Month activity. As SWA is not a safety regulatory, it has always had limited marketing opportunities so it is building a contemporary library of thought.
Most State OHS regulators continue to provide, at least, a week of free seminars and suburban and regional events using the internet largely as an administrative tool for event booking rather than a communication medium, but perhaps, SWA simply established its patch early. And perhaps this is the most sustainable way to market workplace safety – talking face-to-face, showing new products and ideas, telling stories of what went wrong and what went right – reminding everyone that workplace safety is always about people. After all, Australia’s most successful workplace safety ad, Homecomings, was all about the importance of people.
*SafetyAtWorkBlog enquired with WorkSafe Victoria about media access some time ago but was advised that passes weren’t being issued and then it was too late to buy a ticket.
Governments around the world love to be able to claim their State or Country as the safest in the world, when they can. Australia has been plagued by such claims between various States but a report released on July 6 2016 shows that such claims are only half the story.
The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released its report about “Work-related injury and illness in Australia, 2004 to 2014“. The report makes this extraordinary finding:
“Across Australia, there are twice as many estimated work-related injuries as there are accepted workers compensation claims. This indicates that many injuries do not progress into the nations workers compensation systems” (page 2)
This statement seems to indicate that political statements made on the basis of workers’ compensation data, the major rationale for most of the “we are the safest” statements, are only half right!
WorkSafe Victoria has often been a leader in advertisements about occupational health and safety (OHS). It has had mixed success since its Homecoming campaign, as it tries different strategies in the vital social media and internet communication world.
It’s latest campaign, Work Safe For Mum, has been running for around a week before Australia’s Mother’s Day on May 8, 2016. It is one of those ads that doesn’t mention the product it is selling until the end. The challenge with such ads is to inspire or guilt the viewer enough that they not only acknowledge the importance or relevance of the product but take the next act which, in this case, is to pledge to be safe at work. Continue reading “What better way to thank your Mum than by staying safe at work?”
New Zealand’s Safeguard magazine is a long-standing institution. Recently it undertook its first ever Safety State of the Nation survey. The results are interesting and should provide a format for Australia and other countries or publishers to follow. Cross border comparisons could be fascinating.
Safeguard’s editor Peter Bateman says in a media statement:
“Given all the scaremongering stories which have accompanied the new Health and Safety at Work Act, it is pleasing to see 40% of respondents feel health and safety is an opportunity to improve their business rather than just to comply with the law.”
The fact that the results are made publicly available is also significant. Not only does this allow me to write an article on the results, it shows a level of transparency that other safety-related surveyors, particularly those who charge hundreds of dollars for a survey report, could easily follow.
SafeSearch has released the latest edition of its Australasian survey of occupational health and safety (OHS) salaries. A couple of years ago the recruitment company started including some qualitative questions. The latest survey generated a media release that says
“…the role of safety within an organisation is being redefined due to out-dated and ineffective strategies.”
And quoted Aaron Neilson, the company’s General Manager, saying
“Currently safety strategies are seen as a potential business burden. They are not always developed in tandem with broader business objectives, and risk being viewed as inhibitive.”
The motivation for these changes is never identified or speculated over.
Traditionally changes in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector have originated from the existence of a hazard leading to the generation of outrage which results in legislative change. The presence of research evidence may speed up the change process. However this does not seem to be what is generating the current change in safety, according to Neilson. Continue reading “What happened to leadership?”