Laughed ’till my head fell off

file0001195347088When you think about it, safety is a serious business.  Whether it is about preventing injuries or supporting successful outcomes, no matter how you look at it, no one wants people to get hurt.  But I wonder.  Does the serious nature of safety stifle our creativity?  If you have a bit of fun with safety do people think that you aren’t taking it seriously?

Following on from their 2009 safety briefing Nothing to Hide, last year Air New Zealand launched its onboard safety briefing An Unexpected Briefing.  The safety video was inspired by the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  (They have just followed it up with The Bear Essentials of Safety starring Bear Grylls).  The company said that ‘An Unexpected Briefing’ was a further reflection of the world-class creative talents of New Zealanders.  Interesting that they wanted to differentiate themselves through creativity, not safety performance.

I believe that there is a place for creativity in conveying safety information and messages.  When done well it engages the audience and is memorable.  The Air New Zealand safety briefings are an example of that.  A creative message can generate discussion.  But care is needed to make sure that people are talking about your message for the right reasons.

About 10 years ago I was working at a steel processing facility.  The first day back after the Christmas break was always Safety Reorientation.  We were required to spend the day taking all the employees through the safety handbook and review significant risks.  Focus their minds back on the job.  I was lucky to have a like-minded Operations Manager and we decided to make the day fun.

We split the employees into group and created challenges in which they had to compete to get points for their teams.  For example, instead of showing the safety handbook via PowerPoint presentation we turned it into a trivia competition.  I was the quiz master, calling out safety questions whose answers were in the handbook.  And you know what?  A great amount of discussion was generated, most of the questions were answered correctly and it was fun.  The team members discussed their answers and it was also an effective way of involving the employees for who english was their second language.

They say that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ but I am not so sure.  I am not a fan of using creativity for the sake of being different.  It has to add to the message, not detract from it.  An ad campaign recently caught my eye.  It was the Motor Accident Commission – Speeding. We all play a part. ad campaign.  To me there is no question that it is a better alternative to the usual graphic horror used in speed kills ads.  But I am not sure that it will have the desired impact.  What do you think?


  1. HB Reply

    Agreed. What did you make of the “dumb ways to die” song? by victoria rail I think. I found it very entertaining but remain unsure whether it aims to reduce unsafe behaviours or give people ideas.

    1. Zinta Satins Post author Reply

      Hi HB,

      There is a post by Daniel on this blog (Cute but disempowering) about the “dumb ways to die” song. I actually found the approach an effective way to communicate the message. I liked the animation, the song was catchy. I just thought that the message was misguided. It was another example of “if only people understood the terrible consequences of their actions then they wouldn’t do it” mentality. It doesn’t work.

      My concern about the “Speeding. We all play a part” ad is that the message is lost. I came across the ad through my creative interests. I saw a short video on the making of the ad. It was about the artist (Emma Hack) and the process she used. (Interestingly she did the body painting for Gotye’s film clip Somebody That I Used to Know ). I was so interested in the creative process that I didn’t take notice of what the ad was for.

  2. Hans Houtman Reply

    One in a series of many different safety briefings, which according to my limited knowledge, started with a cabin attended to rapped his briefing on Southwest. He got his passengers engaged and the video went on the internet.
    By bringing the message with humor, one can get more attention from the audience to which the message is directed.

    When I worked for ATC in the Netherlands we had problems to identify to pilots the problems that we saw around runway incursions: it was difficult to change the number of incursions, knowing that the pilots were identified as the persons who mostly were causing the incursions. So what to do? A team of people created safety charts which were spread (4 different cards, each time a different one, with 2 or 3 weeks between the different cards). To give an idea: one of these cards was related to crossing the red stop bar (placed before a pilot enters the runway) and there was a relation made with “red lights” in Amsterdam. A lot of positive reactions on the cards……but the numbers did not go down.
    While writing this reply I asked a pilot whether he could remember the cards. Yes, he could, but the message…..??? Something like “pay more attention”.

    It is difficult to get the safety message to people.

    My idea is that it is important to tell people “why” the rule is there. And in both the short movies of ANZ but also in other movies that I have seen during all the flights made in the last years, nobody told me the “why” of the required behaviour. Maybe that the “why” is more important.

    Bet then: all the picture of destroyed lungs (fighting cancer) or the horrible pictures of car crashes (road accident) did not change behaviour. This is about cancer, of course, but also about health in general and the enormous costs related to it and you don’t burn a note of $5 each day. Speed on the road is related to the lay-out of the road, other persons on the road and stopping distances. You must be seated with the belt closed during taxiing of an aircraft because standing in the aisle can lead to passengers falling over when the pilots all of a sudden have to use the brakes.

    And even then….isn’t this about the risk homeostatis: how much risk do we accept?

  3. Amanda Benson Reply

    Again and again we see great examples from across the ditch of businesses clearly understanding their safety risks and being innovative with the controls they adopt. The outcome is very refreshing and inspiring and can provide a competitive edge.

    There are many applications of this approach in kids toys from NZ – including recently, the pedal-less bike. Clearly the safety of the young users is paramount so they take an innovative approach to enable learning while minimising the risks to the kids. Twinkling little eyes & big smiles are plentiful and sales are through the roof.

    Would love to hear of any research to practice in this area of enabling innovative thinking & application to safety risk management.

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