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YouTube Hit: HazCom You Can Hum To

Friday, April 22, 2011

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Who knew that hazardous communication could be such a toe-tapper—and had such amazing connections to Seinfeld, Ronald Reagan and tuna casserole?

Marshall Carroll, that’s who. His new music video, “The HazCom Song,” has achieved a genuine viral victory: thousands of views for a hummable rundown on national hazardous communications standards.

The three-and-a-half-minute ditty covers the key points and history of the standard in novel and—it’s true—entertaining ways. The lyrics are also available online.

There’s the original Canadian version (about Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and a new U.S. version (referencing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), courtesy of Carroll, who was educated on both sides of the border and is now a teacher and workplace safety officer at his high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Stopping the Safety Snooze

Carroll says the song grew from an annual challenge: keeping his colleagues awake during his yearly workplace safety presentation. Each year, he tries something new. This year’s idea was a takeoff on Phil Harris’ 1950 novelty ditty “The Thing.”  (The song was a natural for Carroll, a long-ago summer camp counselor who happens to hold a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry.)

With his teenage son’s acoustic guitar accompaniment and slides compiled by his chem students, the video fell quickly into place—and the safety presentation drew its first standing ovation ever.

Painters and E.T.

The Hazcom Song

Carroll works a lot into his little musical jaunt: MSDS, material labeling, safe handling, lethal doses, pH, protective gear and more.

He offers general advice:

First aid procedures and other sordid treasures
Risk phrases are shown like “may explode if held”
Highly irritating like Newman on Seinfeld
Highly irritating like Newman on Seinfeld

 Marsh Carroll
Marsh Carroll has bridged the musical gap between Granny’s chicken soup and hazardous communications.

And even industry-specific advice:

The fire guys use diamonds, the painters all use bars.
E.T. used a Speak N Spell when labeling on Mars.

Watching Paint Dry

The song has even become a sort-of crossover hit, breaking briefly out of the trade press and into mainstream publications like USA Today.

Carroll says he tries to make his safety talks “exciting, because at times, those seminars can be like, well, watching paint dry.”

Still, even with nearly 10,000 YouTube hits under his belt, Carroll is keeping his day job. YouTube has “enabled revenue” for his channel, but he says: “I think I’d need 100,000 hits to make $1.50.”


Tagged categories: Health and safety; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS); OSHA; Worker training

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