Safety signs and warnings are important. After all, we want people to be aware of dangers and risks they wouldn’t otherwise know. But sometimes the warnings on safety signs are symptons of an over protective society:
Yes, apparently people do die from doing this to vending machines, so perhaps it’s not such a silly warning. But you get the point – safety warnings can be overprotective and ridiculous. This makes them ripe fodder for satire. Here’s what you can do with students about it:
- Ask students to look at a safety instruction such as the one above: What is silly about these safety instructions? Of course, what’s silly is that these warnings are extremely obvious.
- Explain to students that satirical safety instructions make fun of not just very obvious safety instructions such as the ones above but our modern culture of being ‘over-safe’ – publishing warnings about absolutely everything. The purpose of satire is to draw attention to silly ways we can behave as humans or a society. Attached as a resource is a set of satirical ‘safety instructions’ that are issued with a particular brand of swimmers: Satirical safety instructions example. The joke is, of course, that swimmers are pretty safe – they don’t need safety instructions. How can you misuse them?
- After showing students this satirical example get them to pick something very ordinary such as:
- An apple
- A chair
- A ball
- A book
Or another ordinary every day object of their choice. Their task is to write six satirical safety instructions such as:
Apple: Do not feed this by hand to wild, hungry bears. Death or mauling may result.
Ball: Do not attempt to inflate this with massive amounts of helium and use it to circumnavigate the world. You may crash in the Pacific.