Suicide and OHS media campaigns should achieve tangible outcomes

Don’t jump rock cliff at Sydney, Australia

The benefits of advertising are notoriously difficult to quantify unless there is a specific product being promoted.  Advertising about occupational health and safety (OHS) is usually measured in the level of awareness of the viewers with questions such as

  • Are you aware of WorkSafe?
  • What does WorkSafe do?
  • When we mention WorkSafe to you, what do you think of?

But as with wellbeing initiatives, awareness does not always, some would say rarely, generate action; and action that affects real change.

Recently several Australian researchers looked at some of the existing studies around media campaigns on the prevention of

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What better way to thank your Mum than by staying safe at work?

WorkSafeForMumWorkSafe 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?”

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.” Continue reading “Truth, justice and the safe way”

Shit safety campaign launched in Australia

On September 5 2012, the Tasmania Minister for Industrial Relations, David O’Byrne launched a new campaign to encourage businesses to prepare for new Work Health and Safety laws.  The name of the campaign is “OH S…”.

O’Byrne’s media release explains the campaign:

“OH S… is the understandable gut reaction of any worker, manager or business owner when they hear there’s been an accident in the workplace… This campaign uses that first reactionary moment to try and promote how workplaces can be proactive on work health and safety.”

It is reminiscent of the famous line by Bill Cosby when describing a car accident and a driver’s reaction:

“First you say it, then you do it”.

The wisdom of this campaign is questionable.  There could be a range of responses created in the media by various comedians, all to do with safety and shit, such as:

“Make the job safe, move that shit”.

“Don’t be a shithead with safety”.

“The top three priorities of this company is Safety First, Safety Second and Safety Turd”.

Bringing shit into the concept of safety is a challenge and could offend some of the old-guard that sees OHS as sacrosanct.  But it could be that such an advertising strategy for workplace safety is necessary.   Continue reading “Shit safety campaign launched in Australia”

OHS advertising


WorkSafe Victoria is marketing well by tweaking their OHS advertising messages to fit the economic or seasonal requirements of workers and workplaces.  In mid-December 2008, the “Homecoming” ads have been updated to provide a more obvious link to people working during the holiday season.

John Merritt, CEO of WorkSafe, tries to link their two ongoing campaigns – Homecomings and young people at work in the media statement that accompanies the TV release of the ads.  He said, on 15 December 2008, 

“Employers at this time of year need to take exceptional care to ensure their people are properly trained, supervised and working in a safe way.  

“This is particularly true of industries where there are many people taking jobs straight from school or university.  

“With the working environment to become more frantic in the next couple of weeks, now is the time to ensure every workplace has the systems and procedures in place to minimise risk.”

This is true but does not seem to fit the media scheduling.  The television ads began airing this week but 
“The campaign will also run on radio, be shown on outdoor billboards and in cinemas from Boxing Day”

It seems odd to stagger the campaign through the first half of the summer break when the people taking on seasonal jobs, particularly in retail, are starting work prior to Christmas.

Also, previous campaigns aimed at young people  have been criticised by some who say that television is not necessarily the best medium to communicate with the target age group.   Others see the ad as advocating the wrong approach

John Merritt mentions in his statement above that now is the time for reviewing and updating safety systems and procedures.  It could be argued that, in a practical sense, this is unlikely to occur so close to Christmas, when companies are winding down or operating frantically to beat the Christmas deadlines.  

Many school leavers began their new, and first jobs, throughout November.  This would have been the time when safety inductions were conducted and any other training provided.

The campaign certainly has considerable value and it is heartening that WorkSafe has committed to keeping the Homecoming campaign fresh but occasionally the communication strategy seems to hiccup.

For this posting, SafetyAtWorkBlog contacted WorkSafe to include a copy of the ad in this blog and other online OHS publications.  This option wasn’t available at the time 0f posting and the video has yet to appear on YouTube. The posting will be updated when video is available.

Kevin Jones

Workplace Safety Ads

Twenty years ago WorkCover Victoria won awards for graphic ads depicting workplace incidents.  Canada is now debating the value and worth of such an approach to safety awareness.  (The WSIB ads are widely available on YouTube)  But in the 21st century, Australia is using a gentle approach that is having considerable success.

The latest ad will go to air early in May 2008 and a sneek preview can be viewed HERE

The ad that started WorkSafe’s campaign can be viewed HERE


The WorkSafe ads have had a huge impact by focussing on non-workplace motivations for workplace change.  However, the community message needs to be supported by community action from the regulators.  There is extensive branding and sponsorhip happening but WorkSafe, or rather the Victorian Government in coordination, needs to step up the role of advocating safety values at all stages of work and life for long term change to be affected.

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