Pain game “worker blame” advertisement misses safe design angle

The “pain game” advertisement appeared on the TV today.  “Tony” a construction worker takes – according to the storyline – a “short cut” that costs him a broken pelvis.  The pain game is a worker blame game and misses the safe design angle.

What’s Tony doing?  He is drilling a hole in a concrete column.  Tony makes an improvised stand to get high enough to drill the hole with a battery-powered hammer drill and falls backwards.

The message blames the person nearest the accident sequence – a common a serious flaw in accident analysis.  Tony is just doing a job, as he will be on the next column, and the one after that, and on the next floor, and so on.

The real question here is not the “short cut” that Tony is taking but the designer’s short cut.  Why is the hole needed?  Could the purpose of the hole be achieved another way?  Could it be a cast-in hole or cast-in fixing?  If it must be drilled on site does this fixture need to be so high on the column.  If it could be lower Tony would not need a stand at all.  If it could be eliminated or cast in, Tony would not even need to do the job on site.

The safe design approach is a much more powerful form of solution as it is multiplied across the job on all the columns.  Further the safe design approach would remove other hazards such as noise, vibration, dust, electrical leads (if not using the battery drill).  All of these remain if Tony works the “right way”.  This is why the worker blame game delivers limited advantages.

If we can get the safe design aspect moving more strongly construction safety will be improved and also efficiency of the projects.  Tony would not have to take a short cut. The advertisement might be clever, and I found the “game show host” played quite a funny character, but being clever or amusing is only useful if the message is useful.

About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pain game “worker blame” advertisement misses safe design angle

  1. mikebehm says:

    John should make his own commercial with a designer interrupting the game show host…the designer could say “We’re starting to recognize hazards in the design phase and this is an easy one”, and conversation ensues, the games show host asking the worker why he need to do that job that way, and whatever the answer, the set shifts to a designer’s office with a worker, a safety professional, and a construction manager talking about safe design…solution offered…the set goes back to the work site with the hole placement lower and a reason for it. Can’t think of details off hand at the moment, but you get the point; that would be a great commercial. Further, it is in line with the draft Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022…ending with the game show host saying, “design solutions – arranging conditions for workers to use their knowledge and skills”.

    • Yes Mike, What about having the designer spinning the wheel to indicate (a) the injuries that will be inflicted on others or (b) the advantages of better design depending on how they do their work?

      At present the problem is that the advertisements says that decisions on this construction site control completely safety on this site. That is only true to some degree. It is mostly decisions in other places at other times that influence safety on the site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s