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Injury Prevention contributor wins Ig Nobel Award

One of our reviewers and occasional contributor, Peter Barss, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at McGill, was the recipient of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize for his pioneering research on “Injuries due to falling coconuts”. Although this award is a spoof, being hit with a coconut weighing between 2 and 4 kg may not be a laughing matter. Far more amusing are some of the past Ig Nobel winners in other fields: Physics 2001 “Why shower curtains billow inward”; Psychology 2001 “An ecological study of glee in small groups of preschool children”; Peace 2000, awarded to the British Royal Navy for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells and simply shout “Bang!” instead. Other recipients include: Medicine 1993, “Acute management of zipper-entrapped penis”; Mathematics 1993, for calculating the exact odd that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist; Literature 1999, for the six page description of the proper way to make a cup of tea, and Public Health 1996, for “Transmission of gonorrhoea through an inflatable doll”. (The award is a creation of the journal, Annals of Improbable Research; contributed by Barry Pless.)

Glamorizing hazards

Occasionally, an advertisement will disturb the safety conscious consumer. Perhaps it grabs attention by glamorizing a risky activity or depicting a dangerous location. It might show people biking, snowboarding, or driving without the proper protection. Advertising has tremendous power, not only to sell products but to sell attitudes. It is important for advertisers to send a responsible safety message to the public. The Canada Safety Council has challenged a number of lifestyle advertisements, including some that featured people walking on railway tracks, reckless driving, and lack of a helmet or vehicle restraint. What can you do if you see a commercial or print ad that seems to promote unsafe behavior? First, contact the advertiser with the details of your concern. Names and addresses of companies and their CEOs are available on web sites and in business directories. If you’re not satisfied with the advertiser’s response, complain to Advertising Standards Canada, the self regulating body for the industry. ASC administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which has a clause on safety:

“Advertisements must not without reason, justifiable on educational or social grounds, display a disregard for safety or depict situations that might encourage unsafe or dangerous practices or acts.”

In its 2000 Ad Complaints Report, ASC describes three sanctioned television commercials: a laundry detergent ad where a teenager was buried by dirt from a dump truck, then emerged unharmed; a bakery ad with workers inside a grain silo looking up as grain poured into the silo from the top; and a financial ad that showed a lantern intended only for outdoor use being used in an enclosed space. If you have safety concerns about an ad campaign, provide the Canada Safety Council with a full description. We may support your request that the advertising be changed or withdrawn. (Reproduced from President’s Perspective, Safety Canada, the member newsletter of Canada Safety Council, Vol XLV, No 4, October 2001. The newsletter can be read at www.safety-council.org.)

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