Humor & Gore in Safety Training Videos — Effective?


In many areas of employment law, training of supervisors and/or employees is recommended, and potentially very useful in preventing and defending employment lawsuits, but not, strictly speaking, legally mandated. Harassment is a prime example (except for in a few states that do mandate training, notably, California), but there are certainly others.

In contrast, workplace-safety is highly regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and employee training is federally mandated.

OSHA describes the training requirements this way:

The Occupational Safety and Health Act . . . does not address specifically the responsibility of employers to provide health and safety information and instruction to employees, although Section 5(a)(2) does require that each employer “. . . shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.” However, more than 100 of the Act’s current standards do contain training requirements.

See Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines for a compilation of the OSHA safety training requirements.

This large volume of safety training rules may seem overwhelming to many employers. Fortunately, there are companies providing very useful OSHA training materials, which make the task much easier. is a producer of safety videos that can be very helpful in meeting OSHA safety training requirements.

Video training that goes beyond simply portraying a lecturing “talking head” by using visuals illustrating and reinforcing the spoken lesson can be excellent. Such videos appeal to both visual and auditory learners.

This company’s safety videos are professionally produced, and most are industry specific. Most videos are available in both English and Spanish. From the company’s website, it is possible to preview many of the videos.

The site includes an extensive product list, viewable alphabetically or by category/industry. Included are safety meeting packages or “kits” by industry.

Somewhat intriguing to me was that in addition to relatively routine and straightforward instructional videos, offers two drastically different ways to get and hold employee attention — and, hopefully, make a lasting impression.

These are described as the “Funny Safety Videos” and the “Gory Graphic and High Impact Safety Videos.”

How funny are the funny ones? Funny enough to hold employees’ attention better than straight narration style, I think, but not funny enough to win any comedy Emmies. For example, a funny video on eye protection opens with a caricatured safety-clueless employee with a fake drawl explaining all the lame reasons he doesn’t wear eye protection. Employees may recognize themselves or coworkers in this guy, and it may draw them into the presentation.

And the gory, graphic, high impact videos? These are frightening enough that some employees might start rethinking career options (some may even faint!). But the potential for high impact is definitely there. A gory picture is worth a thousand words — and these have lots of gory pictures of actual workplace injuries. There’s even a video that promises: “student is taken completely through a real autopsy. Never before seen, explicit, very graphic, live moving video of an actual autopsy.” To drive home the idea that workplace accidents can be fatal — and death is scary.

In the end, are funny or gory videos more effective than straightforward instructional ones?

If they keep people from falling asleep and cause them to to think about safety a bit more, I can see them being more effective. I would suggest giving them a try and gauging employee response.

As with other training products, there are many competitors, as this is a very lucrative market created by the OSHA mandates.

One could spend much time comparison-shopping. My personal attitude towards shopping (for anything) is such that I would review products from three or four companies that seem reputable and then make a decision, rather than feeling compelled to spend endless hours comparison-shopping looking for the very best deal.

But some companies may wish to task safety staff with a more thorough survey of options before investing in particular materials. It may be worth it, given the risks and costs associated with safety issues.

In either case, a couple of places to look would be The Workplace Safety Store and the dmoz directory page on “Business: Human Resources: Training and Safety.” For legal information relating to OSHA, in addition to the agency’s own site (a great example of how the federal government is providing vast quantities of useful information on well-designed agency websites) take a peek at the Cornell Law School’s workplace safety page.

I would also suggest that video instruction be accompanied by live, in-person discussion and question-and-answer with employees, perhaps including hands-on demonstrations. This will go far in personalizing and customizing the learning to particular situations the employees face in their own jobs. It will also help reinforce the lessons for kinesthetic learners, who learn best by doing.

Photo credit: Mikett via flickr

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  1. I would prefer safety training videos that are straightforward because safety is not a laughing matter.

  2. George

    No Safety is not a laughing matter, but humor can be a good teacher, and not just the mundane boring material that loses the focus of the student, and nothing sinks in that is taught

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