They're stories that no one wants to hear, yet they're stories that carry important lessons. Lessons that will save others from injuries and deaths. These stories include a man killed after being thrown against heavy equipment, and another who died from a fall while installing solar panels.
They are stories being told by Laura Styles and her coworkers in the Occupational Health Branch’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program.
The FACE program tracks and investigates workplace fatalities, and makes recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents.
A new strategy in its prevention effort is using video storytelling to share the tragic stories that carry life-saving lessons.
"We think these stories are going to resonate with viewers and prevent future deaths," said Styles (left). "We want people to realize that this could happen to them, and provide the tools to prevent workplace deaths. The data charts and summary tables alone don’t show the personal devastation that these incidents cause."
Styles developed the idea after attending a workshop on digital story telling.
The first video from the FACE program tells the story of a worker who was thrown against a wood chipper after a rope became tangled in the machinery. Styles worked with a video contractor, who taught her how to edit the photographs and narration.
The victim’s employer places a strong emphasis on education and recognized the value in participating in the project. His coworkers reenacted what happened on the day of the fatal incident. The man’s widow didn’t want her husband’s life, or death, to be forgotten and contributed photographs of happier times.
"Participating in this video has been a positive experience for everyone because they are part of the solution," added Styles.
This is the first video from the FACE program in the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health. It tells the story of a worker who was thrown against a wood chipper after a rope became tangled in the machinery. Learn more about the work of the FACE program here.
"This is an innovative and creative project," added FACE Program Principal Investigator and Chief of the Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program Bob Harrison. "We believe it has the potential to change how our audience thinks about the importance of work-related fatalities."
Feedback, so far, has been overwhelmingly positive. Not just because of the story that’s told, but also because the way a story is used for education. Government outreach efforts don’t usually involve storytelling, but it’s gaining greater acceptance as an educational tool. This video is available in English and Spanish.
FACE plans to produce four more videos. The next will be about the solar panel installer who fell off a roof, highlighting one of the dangers in that growing industry.
"While public health’s invisibility may be a testament to its success, we need to do a better job of telling stories about our programs," Styles said. "Especially how they are changing and saving lives."
Other FACE staff involved in the project includes Hank Cierpich, James Rogge and Egils Kronlins.