It’s fair to say that workplace safety is no laughing matter. However, safety education tends to be overly boring and self-serious. Far too often, employees tune out when employers try to educate them about safety. Have you ever experienced trying to teach someone about workplace safety, only to find that they tune you out?
The Safety Education Problem
Ask yourself one question: why do employees blow off safety education? Is it because it’s boring? Is it because secretly they’re afraid? Are they trying to look macho? Is it because they think an accident could never happen to them?
The Funny Solution
I think all of those reasons explain one of the major challenges with safety education. While there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, I believe that approaching safety with a humorous point of view can address many of the underlying causes of employee inattention. Funny safety materials, are less boring, they bypass fear and machismo by allowing self-deprecation, which helps employees realize that accidents can happen to anyone. In fact, there is an entire non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the role of humor in education!
Humorous safety materials have this effect, because people tend to be disarmed and relaxed when they’re laughing. For example, if you post a cartoon in your break room, most people will read it and grasp its meaning before realizing that it had anything to do with safety! Would you have the same effect if you posted a warning poster? I think not.
Or imagine passing out photos of workers undertaking absurdly dangerous risks. Your employees will look at the idiots in these pictures and laugh. And that laughter reminds them of right from wrong, safe from unsafe, without you having to nag them constantly.
How to Implement Humor
I am not suggesting that educators should abandon the old methods lock, stock, and barrel. But I think there is a strong place for integrating humorous safety materials in the regular course of business. The internet is full of a of free or cheap safety education tools that are also funny. You can find safety cartoons addressing any workplace safety topic imaginable . The are entire websites devoted to cataloging funny safety videos. Because I think this is such an important tool, but couldn’t find all the information I wanted in one place, I myself put together a collection of some great humorous safety materials.
When teaching safety, it is easy to just check off the box for each requirement. However, implmenting a real culture of safety requires getting through to your employees on many different levels. While humor can’t solve every problem, it adds an entirely new tool to your safety education toolbox.
Ivan Oakthorn blogs about safety at 10safetytips.com.