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Student video on workplace safety reaches viewers in construction industry

Two-minute PSA video screened for 100 construction workers


(Canadian OH&S News) — An award-winning short video by two high-school students in Mississauga, Ont. has carried its message about workplace tragedy to the real world, as a local construction company recently screened it to an audience of about 100 employees.

Who I’d Still Have, a two-minute public-service announcement (PSA) created by St. Francis Xavier Secondary School students Pranay Noel and Martin Czachor, won the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s (MOL) annual It’s Your Job safety-video contest earlier this year. Set to piano music composed by Noel, the video is a series of vignettes of life situations — a children’s hockey game, a marriage proposal, a man playing with his dog — followed by titles saying that four of the characters are now dead. “Unreasonable deadline” and “Afraid to question authority” are given among reasons for the fatalities.

“We began in the way of telling a PSA story in less of a direct manner, like ‘here’s job safety, here’s an accident, this could happen to you,’ but more the effects of it, how it affects the people you love,” Noel told COHSN. “So we thought we could apply it to this and kind of almost challenge the pre-existing conventions of the PSA.

“Job safety is something that really isn’t necessarily about the job safety as much as it’s about what you could lose out of the simple pleasures in life,” added Noel.

Following the contest, CRH Canada Group Inc. corporate social-responsibility coordinator Barb Smith learned of the video via a Mississauga News story. After finding Who I’d Still Have online and showing it to CRH plant manager Kevin Hughes, the company screened the video for Hughes’ construction employees at a casual lunchroom meeting, followed by a Q&A with Noel and Czachor.

“You could hear a pin drop,” Smith said about the screening. “Imagine 100 people in safety boots: there was no sound whatsoever. Everyone was just totally moved by what they had watched.”

Hughes described the workers’ reaction by saying, “The silence was very loud.”

He added that the video’s message about how workplace deaths affect friends and families reflected what he had always tried to communicate to employees who take unnecessary risks. “I often will say to somebody, ‘Would you mind introducing me to your son now? Because I don’t want the first time to be when I have to explain to him why you died in my plant,’” he said. “I try to reach people that way.”

Hughes later discussed the video with his workers during their breaks. “These kids did a really good job of showing the vacancy and the impact,” he said, referring to the absence of people who have died in workplace accidents. “And it’s rung home, especially with some of the older guys — I’m in my 60s, and quite a few of us have grandkids, and it rang home.”

MOL spokesperson William Lin was pleased to find out that Who I’d Still Have had reached a broader audience.

“That’s really, really good to hear,” said Lin. “This is fantastic news, to hear that people are watching the video online outside of high schools and workplaces that those contest entrants may be part of.”

“Videos are an excellent medium to try to paint pictures and landscapes and to put the participant in a certain situation to see what could be happening,” said CRH occupational health and safety manager Eric Bouchard. He added that Who I’d Still Have succeeds in motivating workers to do the right thing, “at least for a moment stop and think, ‘If something happens to me, it could be my family that’s going through these things.’”

Hughes cited the video’s short length and its reliance on images as further strengths. “For me, videos are very effective if they reach the heart quickly. If they’re purely technical and just sort of preaching videos, people tune out.”

Noel and Czachor had tied for first place in the 2013-2014 It’s Your Job as well, with their film Flower. But the success of their entry this year took them by surprise.

“We had a video last year as well, and that didn’t get as much recognition, especially not even from our school. So we weren’t expecting too much when we made this one,” said Noel, who counts Stanley Kubrick as one of his favourite filmmakers and influences. “And then, when companies started actually contacting me, that was definitely something.

“It’s what we love to do. That’s our passion.”

Who I’d Still Have can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UEEAV8E5X0.