November 26, 2007

Controversial Canadian workplace safety ads unveiled

If you are feeling a tad lethargic after your holiday weekend, we are warning you that you may find the contents of today's posting a bit of a wake-up call. Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has unveiled a series of graphic public service announcements designed to highlight worker safety. The theme - There Really are No Accidents - is intended to send the message that work injuries and fatalities are unacceptable and preventable. The campaign includes television and radio commercials, print ads, transit shelter and outdoor ads, web-based ads and a Prevent It website. In addition to running in English and French, the print and TV ads will run in Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi and Spanish.

Take a look at the spots, but please be warned, these are graphic video clips:
Sous Chef suffers kitchen burns
Construction worker falls from roof
Retail worker falls from ladder
Forklift driver dies in an accident

This approach is markedly different from anything that we seem to have here in the U.S. These work safety ads are startling, both in the shocking and gruesome nature of their content and in the fact that they are run on public television. Other than an occasional reference to workplace safety in an insurance spot, we can't recall ever having seen TV ads devoted to worker safety. And despite pervasive graphic violence in films and on TV, it's hard to imagine spots like these being run on network or cable TV in the U.S. Another remarkable thing in comparing Ontario's approach to ours is in the variety of languages that the print and broadcast ads are employing to get the work safety message out.

Does shock value work? It would certainly seem to be effective in drawing awareness to an issue, although it's hard to measure if heightened awareness translates into better on-the-job safety. Ontario has been running graphic ads for a number of years now, and last year, there were 101 work fatalities in a population of some 12 million people. That's roughly comparable to the population of Pennsylvania, where there were 240 workplace fatalities last year or to Illinois, where there were 207 work-related fatalities. Alabama had about the same number of work fatalities (100) for a population of about 4.5 million. Maybe we could indeed use a few PSAs here. (For state fatality stats, see BLS report on fatal work injuries in 2006).

What do you think - effective or no? We'd be interested in hearing of any other public awareness campaigns for workplace safety - perhaps there are some sate-sponsored efforts. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.



For the past few months I have compiled a CD of similar in nature safety videos from Canadian sources and placed them in the hands of our LPC's to use in the field.
They are a bit more shocking than any of the US-sourced safety products and have found the frank nature of the safety interviews and discussions effective in at least "waking up" the audience to the point where workers do more than doze through the presentation.
As distasteful as they may be to some - construction accidents and their aftermath are quite unpleasant too - if we need to compete in order to get the worker's attention (within some boundaries) then so be it. So far the audiences have been quite responsive to this method. I will be sourcing these to our insured's as well.

Oh, come on now! I am an injured RN. If a patient is falling can the nurse just let em crumple to the ground? If someone does manual labor for years or decades won't the body suffer more wear and tear than that of a WC insurance adjustor? Worn out discs are more likely to herniate during the course of doing ones' normal daily routine.

If someone slams their car into yours while you are working for your employer, can you have prevented that??

I think you should be getting the picture by now. Work injuries happen, and instead of keeping people from getting the care they need and causing undue stress by using any excuse to cut off their benefits, how about treating them quickly, keeping food on their tables, and in so doing hope their recovery will be complete and their return to work timely.

The subtle message here is that NO work related injury is really work related. That's what the system is all about, and it is quite effective for the bean counters.

That's interesting that you're already using spots like these in your safety efforts, Mark. Maybe you should put them on a CD to show to all the CEOs and senior managers too - might be persuasive in getting some $$ to the prevention effort come budget time.

Andrea, thanks for your comment, but I didn't read any implications in these spots that would indicate these injuries (mostly deaths, it would appear) were not work related. They look pretty work-related to me! I saw the spots as simply trying to depict the grim realty of a workplace injury to help raise awareness about how easily injuries can occur and how horrible they can be when they do. As I noted in the comment above, I don't think these clips should just be for employees to watch, either - I think company CEOs could benefit by the dose of reality they portray.

You are right in noting that most injuries and illnesses happen in less dramatic fashion or develop over time. And, as in your examples, some injuries/illnesses may indeed not be preventable. But that shouldn't stop employers and workers from having a goal of "zero injuries" and working towards "total injury prevention." Organizations set their sights on total quality for production lots and for 100% customer satisfaction. Worker safety is just as important to an organization's brand and bottom line, not to mention the most important reason of all - the moral imperative that protecting workers and preventing injuries is simply the right thing to do.

We are in agreement about getting injured workers fast, top-quality medical care, providing timely benefits, and helping them recover and return to their normal lives, including work, as soon as possible. If you read some of our other posts or learn more about what we do, I think you will see that is Lynch Ryan's underlying philosophy.

Thank you Julie. I should have articulated that the company CEO's do participate in the screening of safety videos as SOP. They are members of a self-insured wc trust fund where incurred losses can have a negative financial impact on the other members.

We advocate "Best Practice" policies as a goal because they have been recognized for their efficacy in preventing injuries. Safety is a shared responsibility, so it would not only be difficult, but unprofessional to show favoritism to either employee or employer.
Realizing accidents do occur, we also created and advocate a comprehensive RTW program that promotes a SAFE and TIMELY return to work adhering to any physical restrictions set forth by medical providers.

A significant component part of our on-site loss prevention effort includes loss source analysis and providing educational tools for both employer and employees on how to better identify hazards and eliminate them so as not to cause injuries in the first place.

These videos are simply one of many training resources used to deliver the message that safety is everyone's responsibility - and that the consequences for failing to act can often be severe.

This is an orchestrated social marketing campaign to manipulate the public into talking about safety/prevention rather than talking about WCB's failure to compensate the victims. WCBs in each Canadian province have come under a lot of scrutiny for their avoidance of supplying fair compensation to disabled workers. The fact that we are talking about the ads rather than the dysfunctionality of the WCB system shows that their orchestrated manipulation campaign is working. WCBs in Canada and the US represent employers (who are the only ones paying into the fund). Therefore WCBs will do whatever they can to lower fees for corporations. One way is by denying compensation to disabled workers. That woman in the video would realistically spend the rest of her life in poverty fighting the WCB for compensation. If you think these ads are scary, check out the Canadian Injured Workers Society at for a real eye-opener.


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This page contains a single entry by Julie Ferguson published on November 26, 2007 10:28 AM.

News Roundup: Cavalcade of Risk; Terrorism bill; new OSHA PPE rule was the previous entry in this blog.

Assaulted in a Home/Office: Compensable? is the next entry in this blog.

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