Masterchef: Don't try this at home
Australian television watchers have been captured by the Masterchef series where cooking is carried out in a number of exotic locations such as warehouses with floors covered with puddles of water, uneven wooden planks which have caused people to trip and time pressures creating dangerous circumstances with knives and hot oils (as the video below shows).
As with other reality TV series, dangerous behaviour (such as running across uneven plank floors or working at speed with dangerous objects or hot oils) is encouraged.
We have seen Big Brother, crazy Japanese reality game shows and a variety of other reality programs that embrace the concept of real people doing dangerous things under pressure to provide entertainment to us, the viewers.
The Colosseum mentality of this process is concerning. It is exactly the practice and culture that, on a day-to-day basis, we try and exclude from our workplace.
The question that has to be asked of TV shows such as Masterchef is why does the show have to provide dangerous circumstances and pressures to provide entertainment? If the demographic that watches Masterchef is so captivated by risk taking behaviours, then is it the risk taking behaviours that people are looking for, rather than the cooking? I doubt it.
In the modern western economy where the welfare and safety of people is paramount, it is odd to see reality shows continuing to celebrate unacceptable risk taking behaviour. Why can't a minute of the show be allocated towards assessing the potential hazards, determining what the risks are and introducing controls? What people are being encouraged to do, is to develop restaurant quality food. If that is the case, why are the safety principles that exist in major restaurants not front of mind in shows like Masterchef? Why are they ignored particularly, when the people involved are amateurs? Everyone in safety understands that amateurs, who have no knowledge or skill of safety, have the greatest risk of injury.
I know there will be people out there who describe such commentary as "overly sensitive", "killjoy" or simply undermining the integrity of the show. Far from these potential allegations, the purpose in my writing today is to identify the following things:
1. People follow mainstream television and behaviour accordingly. Ask your teenagers why they continually use the word "like".
2. The behaviours that are exhibited and applauded on television will be behaviours that are exhibited and applauded at home.
3. If those behaviours are unsafe, then people who are amateurs (without any knowledge of appropriate safety controls) will be doing unsafe things at home.
4. Shows like Masterchef must have a responsibility to demonstrate appropriate safety principles. To create a show that is based around the celebration of great food under difficult and at times hostile circumstances, ignores a primary obligation of educating people on how to do that safely. That includes managing food hygiene, use of sharp objects, use of hot oils, use of appropriate surfaces and managing the workplace (ie. your kitchen area) so that it is safe.
Although, like millions of other Australians, I am a captive of Masterchef and try on occasions to recreate the wonderful foods mastered by amateur cooks and enjoy the commentary that surrounds it, I remain troubled by the show and other reality shows that continue to celebrate uncontrolled risk taking.
This mentality, where people are working under pressure, at risk and without obvious controls, is unacceptable. No doubt the television producers try to provide controls around potential risks but the fact is that they do not explain what they are.
They do not advise the viewers who wish to undertake similar work how to do things safely. The question that has to be asked is why?
Andrew Douglas is the Managing Director of Douglas LPT, an integrated legal, HR, recruiting and training business. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the loose leaf publication, The OHS Handbook, and writes on workplace law issues such as Industrial Relations, Employment law, OHS, Equal Opportunity, Privacy, Surveillance and Workers Compensation. He is the principal of the legal division of Douglas LPT and appears in courts, tribunals and Commissions throughout Australia.