Using sex to sell safety – good clean fun – or offensive?

by Dave Collins on September 13, 2013

in Safe Sex,Workplace Safety

Using sex to sell safety – good clean fun – or offensive?

Which one of these photos from an emergency shower advertisement is more offensive – or both equally or neither?


sexy safety - women in shower sexy safety - man in shower


In the excellent Safety Blog: the author posses the question of whether using sex to sell safety is appropriate or offensive. See the two blog posts here: WOMEN MAN

The background is that a company, Spill Station Australia, (Who make some very good gear that we have purchased in the past and been very happy with) used the image on the left in a marketing brochure and allegedly had scantily clad women at their stall at the Safety Show. Following complaints (not sure how many), they now use the photo of the male but the switch to the male photo may not have been due to the complaints??.

The responses to the original blog posts are mostly supportive of using a little sex to sell safety and that perhaps political correctness is out of control. What do you think? Have we got more important safety issues to worry about?

We wrote about a similar attempt to use sex to promote safety here: If you are offended by the photos above then please do not click on this link.

  • Cors

    hi there,

    this is a fine example of a good method: the thaught behind it, is good, especially if you realize that it is mainly men who take safetyrisks. if the woman you love don’t like macho-behavior, you will be caring about yourself a lot more… it’s also a big truth that men are more decent with women involved, so don’t feel offended, be proud Sue, that you are a woman and able to keep a man’s attention in this way……

    a greet from Holland, at the other side of the world

    • Thankyou Cors – from the other side of the world. Yes I think some people may be offended by these methods but that is about them and their own personal principles, beliefs or insecurities, the majority, I believe would enjoy the overt attempt to sell the product. You are right in what you say about targeting what is after all somewhat instinctive behavior. There are many other subconscious or instinctive things advertisers do to sell product like fast food companies targeting children or unhealthy – I am more offended by that than this campaign. Like it or not, the wonderfully complicated and often misunderstood blend of very different Masculine and Feminine values and motivators is what makes the world go around and should be embraced not fought with – nobody should feel guilty about either enjoying or disliking this kind of material – the option to ignore it is always available.

  • Kris de Meester

    Check this 2003 (poster) campaign of the Belgian Safety Institute for the Construction: “construction workers think about sex every 37 seconds… and about safety?

  • Jack

    It is amazing that these people take themselves so seriously. The detail sue looked at the woman’s pic. Why did she not comment on the offensiveness of the male picture. I can see his nipple through his provocatively flimsy t-shirt! When I wear overalls I wear a singlet. Do you think she should be wearing a flanno? “mans paradise” , “male fantasy” , “unbound blonde hair”, “wet stripper”. Really? Walk around in overalls and hard hat for a week this summer and see what you wear. It’s only a safety shower ad.

  • Wynand

    So nice to hear the comments from a woman’s point of view. While men (me included) obviously like to look at beautiful women, there is a line, and I agree that (in my opinion) this line is crossed when used to promote the use of safety gear, especially safety showers. This goes both ways, I will be equally embarrassed to have to strip down in front of women if I need to be showered in an emergency. This is an already difficult and sensitive situation that does not need to be aggravated by adding sexual innuendo. There is a world of difference between a woman who chooses to wear sexy, revealing clothes in public, and one who is forced by accident to reveal all. We should never let our awareness be the cause of resistance to use a product, so we should never connect a safet shower to any innuendo of sex.

    I can live with using a good looking model to model a hard hat or overalls, but never in the situation of a safety shower (or any other safety device that because of its design or function have embarresment potential). I believe for these items, the advertisement or awareness material should focus on the use, not the “sex appeal”.

  • SueC

    I have enough trouble teaching shy people that if you get a chem contact you really do need to strip off to use the safety shower without equipment advertising pushing the strip joint shower routine button in the male population.

    “I’ll be a First Aider if the girls have to strip and get wet in the safety shower, Phwoarr!!”
    “Yeah, but how many do we have that look like that?”
    “Well there’s Mary.. she’d strip down OK..”
    “Tits are too small..”

    My point is its not good clean fun to make a sexual object out of part of your workforce..
    The male model is not assuming a sexually suggestive pose, he is merely a wet asian male in a white t shirt who is a believable typical employee in many industries and places. This isn’t a even a shot of a red hot Firery with half his kit off 🙂 Where’s the female fantasy element in this shot? There isn’t, its a safety equipment shot, the safety equipment is right in the foreground

    However, the female version is doing the surprise-delighted routine in close up, in full makeup (including the re lipstick, red earrings and unbound blonde hair), with lots of cleavage (yes I read the publishers response that this is clothing you might see on the street… but is it clothing you see at work?) in a spaghetti top and not a t shirt. You cannot fail to read this as anything but a sexualised image, complete with wet stripper references. Is she a believable typical employee?. Only for a small demographic of highly attractive blondes who wear full war paint when handling chemicals. I haven’t come across many of them, but perhaps there is a mans paradise out there where women strut with tools and safety gear on, draping themselves over cars and equipment and lusting after a man with a big….truck. Plenty of male fantasy element, and a well objectified woman in the middle of it (consenting? yes, and I’m sure she make a good living from her natural assets) Oh, and the safety equipment isn’t in the forground, or even front and center…

    Leave the grid girls at the races, but get real about something as important as safety.

  • I think anything that helps raise awareness of health and Safety has to be a good thing, as long as it does not offend anyone.

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