Safety education: Just press play

Videos help get safety messages out, particularly to younger workers

With more than 500 videos on YouTube and total views exceeding 13 million, WorkSafeBC recognizes the power of video as an educational tool.

Videos have always been a prevention strategy for the British Columbia workers’ compensation board because it provides a means of communicating that words can’t, says Gordon Thorne, WorkSafeBC manager of product and program development.

“It’s so much easier to represent a hazard or mechanism of injury visually than to have two or three paragraphs describing it,” says Thorne.

“We have been producing around 20 (videos) for the past few years, but it’s not about the numbers for us, it’s really about producing resources that the customers need and want,” Thorne says. “If I get 15 done this year and it meets (our) objectives, then great.”

The benefits of technology as an educational resource have been studied by the New Media Consortium (NMC), a non-profit research centre in Austin, Texas, which has board members consisting of international experts in educational technology.

“For educational experiences, videos have proven to be a really valuable resource,” says NMC communications director Samantha Becker.

“It’s helpful because learners can rewind, they can fast forward, they really can be learning at their own pace,” says Becker. “With video they have the freedom to watch the video from wherever they are.”

Video is a great platform to reach out to young workers because they’ve grown up embracing technology, Becker says.

“Video, like a lot of the other new media we’re tracking, happens to be more in the range of the younger generation because younger generations have never known a world where they couldn’t watch a video in the palm of their hand,” she says.

But older workers shouldn’t be afraid of using videos to learn.

“Video really translates well to all ages,” she says.

It’s the older worker that Markham, Ont.-based workplace safety sign company Seton Canada is targeting in its latest safety video.

“The learning theory for adults is you really want to tap into somebody’s experience and you want to make it personal for them,” says Susan McLennon, president of Toronto-based Babble On Communications, the company that produced Seton’s safety video.

The company’s new “retro-style” industrial video is a tribute to the old, safety industrial films of the 1950s, according to Seton. The video aims to remind viewers about the need to put thought and care into an effective workplace sign program. McLennon consulted with Seton to determine the best means of conveying the company’s messages. It was a concensus that the use of comedy could be an effective means of educating its audience, so it enlisted the creative help of alumnis from comedy troupe Second City.

“The retro safety sign video, it’s fun and we hope that somebody would enjoy it if they had no background at all,” McLennon says. “But, for a lot of safety managers, they came up in the industry watching those 1950s and 60s safety videos and some of them even showed them right up until 10, 15 years ago.”

While video is a useful tool for educating, content is key, McLennon says.

“In adult learning, really important are specificity and positive reinforcement,” she says. “You can’t just tell people what not to do; you have to tell them what to do. It’s the same thing that a safety sign has to do. You have to be clear. You can’t just say, ‘don’t do this.’ If you’re taking away a behaviour, you have to tell them what to replace it with.”

Listening to your audience is key to successfully creating engaging content, McLennon says. In another one of Seton’s videos, a Seeing Eye dog is used in one of the scenes so the company asked for input from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

“We just got amazing feedback,” McLennon says. “The community was really supportive in saying this is really interesting and here are things that we are trying to get out.”

WorkSafeBC listens to its audience when determining stories, as well.

“Suggestions come in all the time,” Thorne says. “We listen to what the customer says about what they need and why they need it.”

WorkSafeBC gets requests to use its videos from safety professionals located all around the world.

“We process about 250 copyright permissions every year,” he said, noting that a recent request came from Turkey asking for permission to translate videos into Turkish. “That’s really what the web has given us. It’s given us that reach to the world.”

The reach of WorkSafeBC’s content is something the organization is proud of.

“I abashedly say we’re a world leader when it comes to the development of health and safety resources online,” says Thorne.

The increasing demand for video content is what led WorkSafeBC to develop a mobile telephone app that hosts 150 of its most popular videos.

“The reason we did it is people are using mobile devices more and more,” Thorne says, adding the app has been downloaded more than 2,000 times since November 2012. “It presents us with an opportunity to increase customer access to our safety resources.”

Having the ability to view videos on mobile devices means their reach extends beyond expectations, he says.

“We did a recent statistical survey that said that over 18 per cent of our YouTube videos are (viewed) on mobile devices,” he says. “In the case of a forestry worker out in the woods, he can actually… pull up a video to see how to safely operate a chainsaw.”

WorkSafeBC is looking to continue offer its resources for free, which is a smart move, according to Becker.

“I think that people now feel a social responsibility to facilitate opportunities for people to access high quality resources no matter what their economic status is, no matter where in the world they are,” she says. “There’s a movement in the world to move towards this type of open content.”

Youth video contest

National initiative

Using video as a means to raise awareness about workplace safety is one of the federal government’s latest initiatives aimed at youth. Workers aged 18-25 are invited to submit an original two-minute video that can be “used to illustrate to younger workers the importance of working safely on the job.” Submissions for the “It’s your job” contest will be accepted until April 1 and a winner will be chosen by a panel of “celebrity judges.”

Silent film star re-emerges

Buster Keaton

Silent film star and Oscar-winner Buster Keaton, most famous for his 1926-film, The General, re-emerged this month in the release of Buster Keaton’s College (1927), reports the Toronto Star.

The film includes a bonus feature which sees Keaton play a news reporter visiting a construction site in Toronto in a safety film commissioned by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario in 1965. The short film is called The Scribe.

Keaton died of lung cancer in 1966 at age 70.

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