If the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) doesn’t play up the very popular “Safety Dance” (Men Without Hats) song at their June 2011 annual meeting in Chicago, I think they will miss a big opportunity.

Search for at YouTube (www.youtube.com) to catch different video interpretations of the song. The video I like the best is from “Artie – Safety Dance – Glee” that has nearly three million views. After you catch the video, imagine the ASSE conference hall rocking as a bunch of safety pros gyrate to the music and sing “ssss-aaaa-ffff-eeee-tttt-yyyy safety dance!” You may even want to use the song and one of its videos interpretations to motivate your workplace safety troops.

Think about this

If you checked out the safety dance video and are uplifted, now is the time to put gloom in your life. Search YouTube and catch the video/ song. I’ve been a safety pro for a long time and have seen some memorable safety videos, the German video with Klaus (forklift safety) used to be my weird favorite, but is so haunting that it now holds first place. I struggle to keep the creepy, though accurately worded, song out of my head. Some viewers of the video say they were “terrified” after seeing it. Others predict the video/song will go viral. P.S. don’t view the video in the dark or just before going to bed or you may have nightmares.


The chance that the safety video may go viral is predictable. The video appears to be from the ’80s and was posted online in December 2007. After lying dormant, views shot skyward this year to the tune of nearly 100,000 a month. More than 1,000 people commented on the video. Some comments are crude, even vulgar, but apparently honest. More than 95 percent of viewers “liked” the video. The video is most popular with males between 25-54 who live in the United States, although the folks in Canada, and some in Australia, like the video, too.

Statistics, such as above, can be found for almost all videos on YouTube. What value does this provide? For one thing it gives a pulse of what is popular. For example, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) video posted on YouTube in August 2010 has been viewed slightly more than 1,000 times, has no comments, and has one vote for “likes” the video (as of March 24, 2011). Truth told, however, the AIHA video is very well done - just not popular.


Caught on tape

Since December 2009, I check YouTube frequently for a variety of environmental health and safety (EHS) topics. Back on that date I was providing machine guarding training for Chrysler/UAW employees at their annual meeting in Detroit. I was showing off my Droid phone to the class and did a voice search for . Up popped a variety of videos and I clicked on one.

As the video opened I passed the phone around in class for students to glimpse at the information. Unfortunately, the video I randomly selected was about one of my major clients, company name clearly called out in the video, where one of their factories was referred to as a “butcher shop” because of all the machine guarding injuries that had occurred. I was shocked and embarrassed. That was not the company I knew - I even conduct machine guarding surveys for them!

A mystery arose when I called my safety contacts at the company to inquire about the video. No one knew the video was on YouTube and no one could recall such a video ever being made. It turned out that the video was made in the early ’70s by a union pushing for stronger machine guarding regulations. The video sat dormant for years until someone decided to transfer it to YouTube. This is a usual method of getting videos to YouTube today. Consider the safety video. Someone found the old tape in a library and thought it would be a hit on YouTube.


Reputation management

Like many people, I’ve done some dumb things that were captured on tape. Back in 1986, for example, inspired by consumption of alcohol, I wrestled an 800-pound bear - no muzzle and it had its claws - at a campground following a weekend whitewater raft trip. Poor risk decision; especially since a wrestling bear killed someone in 2009. There are many copies of the video. Some “friends” want to post it to YouTube. I can’t deny it is me in the video. Before the wrestling match started, I had to announce my name and where I was from. Will my appearance in the video impact my safety pro reputation today? If you have ever met someone from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) the answer is clear. I may have to answer for my “youthful mistake.”

I’m not looking for sympathy, just more company. I’m fairly certain that somewhere in your past, present, or future you may be caught on tape doing something dumb that may go to YouTube, or another online video sharing site, for the world to see. The future is especially worrisome and opportunistic since many people have cameras in their cell phone where videos may be uploaded to YouTube as events happen.


YouTube is just another example of how technology impacts the work we do as EHS pros. As demonstrated above, there are various areas of impact. Safety training vendors must now compete with YouTube. It takes just a few minutes to search YouTube for videos that may meet your EHS training needs. And newer browsers, such as Google Chrome, can be set up to download YouTube videos that may then be imbedded into a PowerPoint® presentation.


Technology also presents ethical challenges. Just because it can be done may not mean it should be done. In many cases, downloading a YouTube video into a PowerPoint® presentation may violate YouTube use policy and copyright laws, especially if the video is used for commercial gain. Did I breach ethics by showing a room full of students a safety video from YouTube? I got paid to conduct the class so there was commercial gain. If you captured a safety concern with your cell phone, what are the ethics of you posting it on YouTube? Would one of my friends commit an ethical breach if they posted the video of me wrestling the bear to YouTube? If someone who doesn’t know me posts the video, does it change ethics?


YouTube is example of modern communication that may be used for both good and poor purposes. I believe the more familiar you become with YouTube and similar online video sharing sites, the better you will be as an EHS pro. Technology is not static in this area so you should keep up with changes. And if you catch me on YouTube wrestling a bear, the bear got two points for a near fall, I got one point for an escape, and the bear should have one point taken away for biting me; that’s a draw!