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A cartoon superhero put in an appearance at IoIC Live – but Kill Spill was not fighting his deadly enemy (‘The Filthy Five’), he was in town to show how retail giant Tesco cut in-store ‘slip and trip’ accidents dramatically.


While the superhero himself only appeared on screen, Greg Stewart and Lucy Aisthorpe from Tesco were there in person to explain the thinking behind the idea.

‘Slip and trip’ accidents were reduced by 43% in a year throughout the UK - with a bit of help from Kill Spill’s own mini-movie, a microsite and a poster campaign with a difference.

“Health and safety can seem really boring to employees – there’s no getting round it,” admitted Greg. “But spills and other hazards are a part of daily life and, if they aren’t dealt with promptly, they can cause serious injury and inconvenience to both customers and employees.”

They can also cost millions of pounds in claims and reputation damage.

“We have 290,000 people working in Tesco stores in the UK and they’re all busy,” he explained. “With the amount of different things they have to deal with in a day, health and safety could slip to the back of their minds as they focus on helping our customers.

“We wanted to do something completely different, something that would be a bit cheesy, a bit of a laugh and grab people’s attention for what is actually a really serious issue. We also wanted to make it really simple to remember the key things for health and safety around trips and slips.”

Hampshire-based agency Mandarin Kite proposed Kill Spill and Lucy said: “It ticked all those boxes.”

There were three reasons behind the cartoon character approach of Kill Spill:

  • a strong, colourful visual identity – one that really stands out
  • fun – very different from the rational, earnest. ‘preachy’ messages many retail employees are used to
  • …but it also allows a serious message.

“Superheroes are all about over-dramatisation,” explains Greg. “This was a licence to make mundane things interesting by pretending that they’re earth-shattering. But pulling this off successfully was a delicate balance, colleagues had to be in on the joke or it might have felt patronising.”

Kill Spill was first introduced in a series of teaser posters, which generated an immediate buzz, which was followed up with the introduction of the ‘Kill Spill Challenge’ – a competition to find the store with the best safety record (i.e. fewest accidents) and the store with the best improvement (so every store would have a chance to win).

The competition was launched with ‘Kill Spill – the movie’, a short film highlighting serious, clear messages - which areas to focus on and what action to take – but in a light-hearted way. It can be viewed here

It was backed up with briefings by the store’s nominated health & safety specialist. These were focused on the five most common causes of slips and trips.

“We called these ‘the Filthy Five’ and created a series of Top Trumps style cards to hand out to colleagues as a light-hearted reminder of how to avoid and deal with them,” said Lucy.

All this information was then put up on a dedicated microsite (linked to Tesco’s intranet, but accessible from colleagues’ home computers). Every month, the latest store figures are loaded onto this site, so colleagues can see where they stand in the league tables.

The momentum has been maintained with fresh posters, including electrostatic ones (these are held in place by static electricity, making them easy to put up in staff areas away from the noticeboard).

Cleaning up spills is becoming a natural part of the Tesco culture. All new store colleagues go through the ‘Kill Spill’ induction – watching the movie and getting a copy of the ‘Filthy Five’ cards.

Greg (pictured above) added: “We’ve already got data showing a significant reduction in accidents and now, when employees see something spilt on the floor or a broken paving slab, they know they have to do something about it – Kill Spill triggers something in their memory.”
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