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Why we went with meerkats for our latest safety campaign

Meerkats and Kiwi workers. Perhaps they're an unlikely partnership. But then again, maybe not. To clear up any confusion, we've outlined why we're using meerkats as a way to talk about safety in the workplace. And by the end, you’ll understand why it’s so important we all listen to our inner-meerkat.


Background to the campaign 

In the last five years, WorkSafe has recorded over 360 workplace deaths and more than 120,000 workplace injuries.

While we've made great strides to improve our awareness of health and safety, it isn't being reflected in the number of fatalities and serious harm injuries occurring each year. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting the same results, and unfortunately, workplace data shows we aren't making the progress we all want.

It was time to do something different.

Our approach

We wanted this campaign to reach Kiwi workers throughout New Zealand, no matter their role or workplace. For it to be successful, we had to solve a particular challenge; how do we help Kiwis think about health and safety differently?

The focus of health and safety has to shift away from clipboards and paperwork, to caring for one another. Despite our caring culture, Kiwis don't have a great approach to safety in the workplace. And so, we decided our campaign should celebrate the role we can all play in getting each other home safely. It also needed to be memorable. That's where meerkats came in.

So, why meerkats?

When it comes to looking out for those around them, meerkats' instincts are widely recognised. Collaborative and risk-aware critters, we used them in our campaign to highlight the primal instinct we all have – our inner-meerkats.

Ultimately, we want Kiwi workers to trust in, and act on, their natural instinct for sensing danger. It's time we start listening to our inner-meerkats.

Learn more about our meerkats' expert safety skills

Two meerkats stood side by side with goggles showing them using PPE

Using correct PPE

Meerkats understand the importance of protecting themselves from risks. For example, when digging, they've got a special membrane that covers their eyes, protecting them from flying sand and other debris. Basically their own in-built safety goggles, it means that if there's work to be done, they come prepared. Just like meerkats, it's important that you also make sure you've got the right PPE for the job.

Two meerkats talking showing clear communication

Clear communication

If there's one thing meerkats are particularly good at, it's regular communication. They even have a range of unique calls depending on the threat, meaning the team knows if a predator is on the ground or in the sky, and how urgent the situation is. Out in their world, communication is key. However you say it, make sure you're also communicating to keep yourself and your workmates safe.

A meerkat teaching others from a whiteboard showing their role modelling skills

Role-model behaviour

Similar to how we look up to our teammates in the workplace, meerkats copy the mannerisms of others in their crew. Older meerkats will mentor the young, teaching them how to find food and be alert to danger, helping the next generation pick up the skills they need to stay safe. So set an example for your team mates, new and old, for how to stay safe at work.

A group of meerkats digging showing teamwork

Supporting the team

There aren't many creatures that work as well together as meerkats. Gathering food, looking after babies, keeping an eye out for predators; whatever they're doing, they've got each others' backs, and work hard to keep each other safe. Watching out for your teammates and providing support is also something we should all do, and will help us stay safe in the workplace.

Meerkat stood with others behind them showing collective responsibility

Collective responsibility

We know it takes a group effort to keep our workers safe. And meerkats are no different. Each meerkat in a team will take turns at being a 'watch guard', and if a predator approaches, they will stand together, raise their hair and hiss at it. One thing is for sure - meerkats know how to collectively fend off a risk! Similarly, our own workplaces are better off when we all take responsibility for health and safety.

A meerkat with radar signals coming from its head showing it being risk aware

Risk awareness

See that eagle soaring more than 1,000 feet away? Us neither. But these meerkats could. Their eyes can take in a wide angle of the scene around them, and their amazing vision allows them to spot things way in the distance. In other words, these little critters are seriously risk-aware. And we have the potential to be too. By staying alert to potential risks, you can help yourself and your whānau get home safely.

Don't miss out on more tips to sense it, stop it.

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