Forestry work is demanding, with extended hours in harsh outdoor conditions and ever-present safety hazards. These hazards were compounded by the fact that workers’ literacy levels are low and employees who are not proficient in English were expected to read long, complex safety policies and work procedures, which they then had to communicate to team members.
Against this backdrop, we realised we had to change the way we communicated about safety. Research showed that the audience loved stories, so we adopted a storytelling approach in asking the audience to Stop and Think Before you Act (STBA). Visuals made the STBA concepts easier to understand and teach, increased engagement, and improved uptake and recall. Research also showed that symbolism and similes would work well with the audiences. The STBA process was incorporated into stories showing how we all have the power to choose our destiny by introducing a hero and a villain.
The audiences named the hero character ‘Clever Me’. They named the villain ‘Stupid Me’ he was the one who did not stop and think. He was prone to be injured or killed on the job and his family suffered the consequences. We were concerned about using the word stupid to describe a person, as we felt it was disrespectful. Research showed us that we were mainly wrong, as only about half of one small sub-group team objected to the name. Their material was adopted to reflect the name they gave the villain (‘Irresponsible Me’).
The initiative has had high levels of uptake amongst contractors and their employees and has significantly increased safety awareness.