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Updated August 2020

As a safety adviser you'll probably find it fairly easy to decide which content you need to show in your next safety video.

The real trick is knowing how to show your content so it has impact and gets remembered, bearing in mind the wave of reliable data that shows how much training is forgotten.

The data suggests that up to 90% of training is forgotten inside a week. In some cases much of the training is forgotten inside an hour.

So why are operatives forgetting safety? And what can you do about it, to make sure it’s not your video they’re busy forgetting?

Here are 6 easy tips that can collectively double the effectiveness of your video:

1 - Motivate or die
2 - Keep Them Awake
3 - Leadership by Good Example
4 - Bringing It to Life with Actors, Presenters and a Cast
5 - Using soundbites to generate Peer Group Influence
6 - Graphics Tell It Better

1 - Motivate or die

To motivate your audience you need to discover where your audience’s self interest lies, otherwise your safety video may die. By “die” I mean not be properly listened to, or be largely ignored during the training session. A safety video can be an excuse to quietly take a nap.

So where does the operative or colleague’s self-interest lie?

You need to ask: Will the training:

- Enable them to do their job better?

- Solve more problems?

- Reduce accidents?

- Increase their self esteem by increasing their knowledge?

- Empower them?

You need to work out their angle, and pitch your message so it reflects their point of view, their self interest.

This is where motivating people begins.

By contrast, simply showing a video about "safety rules & challenges" and hoping for the best is taking a risk that your video will be less than effective, and fail to deliver the safety performance targets you're tasked with achieving.

While any safety video may satisfy a notional legal compliance requirement, this doesn’t mean that you’ll actually be successful at changing workforce behaviour, especially at critical times such as shift turn, or the introduction of new equipment or practices.

It pays to discover where your audience's self-interest lies if you want to motivate them.

This is surprisingly easy to do in most cases. It simply needs thinking about.

Once you start, you’ll immediately discover a few hooks on which to hang your safety message, expressed as audience self interest.

2 - Keep Them Awake

It takes just two things to keep your workforce safety video audience awake:

1 - Showing only things that are relevant to them.

2 - Having a visually interesting-to-watch video. Dazzling them a bit. Being surprising.

Non-relevant video content might be:

- unessential details of your SSOW (safe systems of work),

- talking in "safety compliance language" which real people never use.

- explaining the background to your project, unless it’s immediately relevant to them

- showing other people's jobs and not theirs.

There's quite a list.

Being visually interesting speaks for itself.

Sometimes this costs money to achieve, eg, using actors, special camera techniques and graphics.

But often it's free, eg,

- by including small soundbite interviews,

- or staging an "event" that everyone will relate to.

Ways to make the video more interesting can be found on even the smallest safety video budget, so long as your video producer is proactively encouraged to do this. Any half decent safety video producer will have a pocket full of free ideas you can use to improve your video visuals.

Alternatively you can use animated video to explain your safety training requirements.

Animation is more fun to watch, and allows you to simulate real incidents and situations using cartoon characters.

This works especially well if many of your workforce only have English as a second language.

Animated safety video has come down in price substantially and today often costs the same as filmed video. So consider animation as an option.

3 - Leadership by Good Example

In video, it's common to show "things that go wrong", just as you might show in a safety powerpoint presentation.

Don't do it. Or at least not in a training video.

Show only the right way, and lead by good example, rather than show a series of common errors that everyone knows about (which only reminds people of how bad things really are)

Or if you do have to show an error, then show how to fix it.

Here are some common examples of showing the wrong thing then fixing it:

- A fire extinguisher being used as a doorstop. Make sure you show someone recognising the risk, and then picking up the extinguisher to put back on its stand.

- An unlicensed driver using a fork lift truck. Ensure you show the driver being picked up by a supervisor and having the rules explained to them, and them subsequently agreeing.

- Leaving an untidy work space. It’s important to show the guilty parties sweeping up and correctly disposing of their waste. Don’t just show a messy workspace.

You can probably think of quite a few similar examples in your own workplace.

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4 - Bringing It to Life with Actors, Presenters and a Cast

A presenter can help your video enormously by:

- linking scenes together, sustaining the flow of learning

- summarising the key learning points

- explaining emotional or difficult issues in a human, personal way, such as the consequences of an accident or near-miss, or impacts further down the line.

- creating excitement with their enthusiasm. Nothing works better than enthusiasm for winning audiences, especially on a wet Wednesday morning.

- putting a human face on your safety message. Your video presenter becomes a friendly face that’s liked.

Actors help in numerous ways too.

Actors can dramatise important scenes with key safety messages, so making them more real life meaningful to your audience. This especially works when you need the actor’s face to “register thought”, eg, Stop & Think. Most regular operatives can’t “register thought” on camera, as this is a trained skill.

Actors always look interested, showing intelligence in their expressions, where own staff often look bored, woodentop or giggly.

Actors are also quicker to work with so more video gets filmed in the same time.

Using professionals takes a small budget jump.

But you'll get a more effective video, one that’s remembered.

You need to be clear in your own mind whether your video is being produced mainly for “compliance reasons” or whether you’re seeking a genuine improvement in workforce behaviour.

5 - Using soundbites to generate Peer Group Influence

Workforces mightn't listen to you.

They mightn't listen to senior management.

But they do listen to each other, and are influenced by each other.

This peer group influence is worth harnessing for your video

It’s achieved by using short interview soundbites to both endorse & explain the safety message you're trying to get across.

This works for any safety video, but especially where you're seeking to implant new safety culture values, and motivation is at a premium.

It's like using some of your workforce to train the rest. So use it. It's free.

The secret to doing this isn’t to get operatives to make long speeches to camera (which usually fails).

You need one or two line voxpops that are much easier to deliver to camera.

eg: “I don’t come to work to injure anyone”

or “I’d be ashamed to leave my workspace in a mess”

or “If I see an unsafe situation, I report it. That way it doesn’t happen again later, when someone might actually get hurt.”

6 - Graphics Tell It Better

Graphics explain.

Or bring to life a verbal explanation

- or show safety performance

- or emphasise learning points

- and definitely add style.

As a minimum you'll need graphics for titling, captions and a summary, but the sky's the limit.

In any event, graphics are the language our digital age, and completely in tune with your audience’s expectations.

Which is why some safety managers produce 100% animated safety videos.

Additionally, graphics add a visual unity to any filmed video production. By using a visual graphic theme, you bind all the many clips of footage that get edited together into a single coherent visual whole.


Talking from personal experience, I've been brought in to replace videos that don't work on many occasions.

Typically it's to replace a voiceover-based video with predictably dull filming that no one ever really liked.

The 6 tips above are where I begin when trying to make a fresh start to a safety video production.

You can see safety video samples here

Even more safety video examples are available here.


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