Traditionally employers have adopted a shock and awe approach to safety education. Show people the consequences of misusing ladders and you will frighten them into using them properly. This approach has two drawbacks; firstly, accidents always happen to someone else, never to me, so I don’t need to worry about the dangers; secondly, if you show me a horror story often enough its impact to shock is lost. Whilst horror can lose its impact, because people are comfortable retelling a funny story, humour has the potential to reinforce the safety message over an extended period of time.
Good workplace safety is according to the Health and Safety Executive dependent on genuine worker involvement. So preventing accidents requires employers to make safety something that employees want to talk about, something cool! The answer is to add an element of humour to the safety message.
Humour, helps to put employees at ease, removes corporate hierarchies and makes serious issues easier to discuss. This in turn allows employees to be creative, to challenge the informal status quo of workplace behaviour and build an approach to safety that they can buy into without damaging their own credibility amongst colleagues. Using humour to communicate a safety message does not have to involve telling jokes. It is about telling stories, or providing images that are memorable and create a desire for people to share that story.