Safety films go snap, crackle and pop

What’s PPE all about?


From left to right: Marc De Greef (President ISSA Section Information), Manfred Wirsch (Germany), Dr. Mohammed Azman Bin Aziz Mohammmed (Malaysia), Fernanda Ribeiro Costa) Brazil, Peter Rimmer (Chair of the International Media Festival), Serge Pürro (Switzerland), Maartje Bakhuys Roozeboom (The Netherlands), Kaare Domaas (Norway), Olaf Petermann (President ISSA Section Electricity)

Film and Multimedia productions from nine different countries received awards in the International Media Festival for Prevention (IMFP) at the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Frankfurt, Germany in August.

A Special Media Session opened the Congress with the theme ‘Media can…’ showing how and why media are important in effective occupational safety and health, and what they can contribute to a prevention culture by raising awareness and transferring information. Media can also educate, train, influence and entertain using drama, animation and humour, and the Special Media Session established a context for the International Media Festival.

The Media Festival occupied a seminar room in the Congress Centre at Frankfurt Trade Fair and was transformed into a cinema with a neon ‘Cinema’ sign hanging above the entrance and the sweet smell of popcorn wafting through the foyer to entice delegates to sample not only the popcorn but also the films. It worked! Most sessions were full and members of the international audience were delighted to receive a bag of popcorn on their way into the cinema. “The films were so good. There are so many good ideas! Nice work! BRAVO. good popcorn,” Ene Cristian, Romania.

“We had a record number of films and multimedia products this year – over 290 media productions from 33 countries including 220 films”, said Peter Rimmer, Chair of the International Media Festival. “We were impressed by the quality, the many innovative and imaginative productions, and the high standard of the entries,” he added. “In particular, the increasing use of short films and animation, TV spots and social media, and the use of strong emotion in the storytelling.”

Emotion was a feature of one of the winning entries from Brazil.

Vale, a global mining company employing 136,000 workers across five continents, produced three films under the campaign banner ‘The Day of Reflection’ devised to create awareness for managers and employees to reflect on the value for life across all Vale’s business units. The objective was to promote a dialogue on safety and health at work and to help stimulate employees’ reflection. ‘How would you feel if a loved one did not come home?’, a black and white film with a beautiful rhythm and a powerful impact, impressed the jury with its deep emotion and montage of real people telling their own stories in their own words.

In complete contrast, to illustrate both the diversity and the influence of culture and national identity on safety films, the Social Security Organisation (SOC SO) in Malaysia received an award for their film ‘Imagine’,a light comedy that showed the importance of keeping vehicles maintained. The story was told in a humorous way with an engaging dialogue between the car mechanic and the customer, and the jury recognised that safe maintenance was important in all fields of OSH.

Another humorous but profound film featured Father Christmas and won an award for the DGUV in Germany for their short film Der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus)’. Santa did his work in the traditional way distributing gifts throughout the world but he wasn´t happy. In an interview he expressed his dissatisfaction with the monotony of his job, and explained that he wanted some variety in his work. The jury was attracted by the use of the familiar, old character of Father Christmas addressing a modern phenomena – stress, monotony, burnout and dissatisfaction – and commended the film for its humour and high production values.

Drama has always featured strongly in safety films, especially from northern Europe, although What comes first’ was a combined venture betweenthe LHS Foundation and Saipem in Italy and the London-based production company Pukka Films. The film portrayed the events that unfold onsite between two working teams feeling both the pressure of organisational production, and the self-generated target of impressing others. The content was rich in its demonstration of both positive and negative working and leadership styles. The key message was that workplace safety within an organisation can only be guaranteed when safety has become part of the culture. The jury was impressed with the authentic approach to implement a safety culture in a large company, and the strong storyline.

Drama of a different kind was seen in a short TV spot from Denmark. ‘Video greeting’ featured a young employee starting work in a restaurant kitchen and making a ‘video selfie’ for her mother when she suffered a serious accident. The film used contemporary media – the ‘selfie’ – and was aimed specifically at vulnerable young employees to make them aware of the increased risk of them being injured at work.

More drama from Singapore where the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) won an award for their film ‘This could be you’. The short TV spot reminded us that we cannot assume that safety will be taken care of by somebody else. Those who take shortcuts may end up paying the price. People often say that their work is low risk and that companies who have never had an accident believe that it will not happen to them. The film aims to change this mindset. The film used the scenario of falling from height and seeks to persuade anyone who thinks that accidents will not happen to them to think again. The jury liked the very clear message, and the way the film caught the attention of the audience with its dramatic images and effective use of slow-motion film.

Multimedia category

Three awards were made in the Multimedia category:

An award was made to the Federal Coordination Commission for Occupational Safety FCOS in Switzerland for their FCOS or EKAS Box. Designed for managers and employees in an office environment, the jury liked the attention-grabbing animations, and the imaginative and humorous clips, while at the same time reinforcing a serious health and safety message.

A second award was made to the Engagement Game by TNO in The Netherlands which addressed workload and stress in a positive and fun way. The jury was convinced by the power of the game as a learning tool providing a number of possibilities and advantages over traditional teaching and training methods.

A third winning award went to the Working Environment Guide of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, an e-learning tool using film, animations and interviews with Inspectors, and a “tool box” with links to the different themes of the regulations. The jury was impressed with the balanced use of multimedia and the ease of navigation.


Culture plays a major part in the way in which OSH issues are addressed and stories are told, and this was highly visible in the International Media Festival. Culture influences film because film-makers, directors and screenwriters don’t ‘live inside the camera’. They take the world around them and filter it through their lens to create something that reflects their culture. Conversely film influences culture, just as art and literature, radio and television, and any media influence culture. We consume those media and it shapes the way we think and interact.

For example, in the UK it is not uncommon to show the serious consequences of an accident – blood on the floor – but it is unusual to see blood on the floor in a French film where there is generally more discussion and a more philosophical approach. In Asia – Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan for example – animation is widely used with traditional storytelling techniques. In films from the US ‘talking heads’ are common. Films from Scandinavia are traditionally long and finely paced. And, the emergence of films from South America and Africa has brought new ideas to OSH films – rappers, music and dance – vibrant and exciting!

The Napo series of films was produced precisely to overcome cultural, linguistic and national boundaries, and Napo now features in 177 countries around the world from the smallest Pacific islands to China, Russia and the USA. He is truly a global superstar of OSH.

Of course, film is now easier to produce than ever before – look at YouTube and the mobile phone culture. More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Digital media has changed the landscape for professional film-makers, and the growing number of applications and platforms means that film can come closer to the end-user. As a result, OSH films have become shorter, and the production values are generally high. But the impact of any film is determined not by the technology alone but by the script and the storyline, and its ability to reach out and engage with an audience. Whatever technical developments and innovations take place in the future there is always room for improvement in the creativity, originality and crafting of OSH films.

The next Media Festival will take place during the XXI World Congress in Singapore in 2017.

Media Festival on the internet

Films submitted to the International Media Festival can be viewed online at


Safety films go snap, crackle and pop. By Peter Rimmer.

Peter Rimmer is a freelance writer, photographer and communications consultant who worked for 16 years as Director of Communications with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) until the end of 2003. He was campaign manager at the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in Bilbao from 2005 to 2007, and moderates technical workshops and seminars including ‘Successful campaign planning’. He chairs the juries for the International Media Festival of the ISSA/ILO World Congress and the Healthy Workplaces Award at the DOK Leipzig Documentary Film Festival, coordinates the Napo series of short animation films about safety and health at work, and is an Assessor for the Corporate Health Standard in Wales.