Of all of the genres of corporate film, health and safety films probably conjure up the most clichéd images when we think of them. A scripted drama scene unfolds before us in a sequence that wouldn’t be out of place in a lower-budget episode of Crimewatch. Our barely believable characters, Robert and Mark, are keen to head off from work early, exchanging awkward banter about cutting some safety protocols. This results in Robert’s untimely – and overdramatic to the point of humorous – demise, much to the horror of their Manager, Cheryl, who was off in the portacabin eating a sandwich, ‘supervising’ through the window. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of executing a health and safety film poorly, especially when you consider the scenarios that corporate film producers are tasked with bringing to life. So, what’s the secret? How do we do it effectively? 

A carefully considered approach

It might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to misunderstand what type of approach is going to resonate most powerfully with your audience. Using humour might be the best way to stop builders from carelessly throwing tools to each other across platforms, but it wouldn’t be the wisest approach when telling a story about a colleague that was actually hit by one of those tools. In that same vein, using animation can strengthen the impact of a humorous script because actors aren’t being relied upon to deliver the lines perfectly. Equally, on the other hand, using animation to tell a real-life human story would pose difficulties in giving the film that vital emotional kick. 

This ‘Dropped Objects’ animation hits the nail on the head (literally) with its approach as it balances its message with humour brilliantly.

Clear and concise messaging

Relatability has to be at the centre of any engaging health and safety film. Without a tangible connection between the target audience and the subject matter, behaviour change will not happen. The film also needs to be focused around simple solutions – it can’t ask too much of the audience. If the required solutions/actions are impossible to do, or could come at a personal or professional cost, no action will be taken. It’s best to keep things simple and capitalise on the story being told. The film should also take the feelings that the film has invoked in the audience and use them for good, encouraging solutions-focused learning. 

This film for Network Rail forms a series of animations about safety at work, based on true stories of incidents that have happened on or near railway lines. This film is particularly powerful as it is told from the perspective of an outsider, a Doctor, who is observing the injuries sustained by the employee. It is hard hitting and brilliantly executed storytelling. 

How does the message hit home?

Finally, a key part of executing a successful health and safety film comes from asking, “What should the audience be left with?”. Should they be laughed into submission, shocked into behaving, or left with a sense of sadness and unease about what they have just seen? 

This advert for Volvo weaves a very comprehensive narrative into its 3-minutes. It plays with the audience’s feelings perfectly, finishing up with exactly the feeling that they want to invoke at the end – relief.

While it may be considered a challenge to make an impactful and inspiring health and safety film, there are many examples of films that execute it brilliantly. Considering these key areas outlined above is the first step to succeeding in this.

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