I have mixed feelings about this series of spots from the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board in Ontario. (And if the “Safety & Insurance Board” sounds boring, well, you’re in for a surprise.)

The spots show regular workers — a sous chef, a forklift driver, a welder — who suffer rather dramatic and painful calamities due to improper conditions at their workplaces.

Positive spin: The topic of “workplace safety” puts us to sleep. It sounds boring and vaguely dorky (inevitably the solution will involve eye goggles, right?). And yet workplace safety itself is critical — people do get hurt, people do die. To break through the disinterest and inertia, you need to be bold. You need to shock.

Negative spin: It shocks alright. Even people who enjoy movies like “Saw” and “Hostel” will probably wince at this spot, about an accident that befalls a young female chef. But does the shock reinforce the core message of the campaign? If the core message is to take workplace safety seriously, maybe it works. If WSIB wants behavior change of some kind, I’m not clear what it is.

The spots are so brutal that I wonder how the campaign can be (or whether it should be) sustained. I would love to be a fly on the wall at those creative discussions. (“Hey, what if we spotlight someone who’s dismembered by a rogue meat slicer…?”)

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