If anything, the freshman boys in class got a kick out of the presentation’s title.
Carl Kochman of the Montana State Fund presented “Don’t Be a Jackass at Work” to West High wood shop students on Thursday, telling them they can learn safety in the workplace even as teenagers.
“This is not a fun presentation,” Kochman told the class. “There’s nothing cute about it.”
From there, he went on to show the students videos of young adults who were maimed for life after an on-the-job accident. The clips showed interviews with the actual survivors and then dramatic re-creations of the accidents.
The students responded. The room got somber after hearing the story of an 18-year-old who was paralyzed from the waist down after he was buried under a stack of falling plywood. He described in detail all the tools and medication he now uses to simply go to the bathroom.
When a 19-year-old girl described getting three of her fingers torn off by the gears in a running dough-flattening machine, many of the students scoffed and offered their own advice.
“She should have turned the machine off,” someone called out.
Teacher Jeff Meide invited Kochman to speak in his class after reading about the new awareness campaign being rolled out by Montana State Fund. He tries to invite outside speakers to visit his class on a regular basis to give his students another perspective on area business and industry.
“I can’t take the kids out all the time, but I can bring people in,” he said.
In his shop class, he typically spends those first few weeks of the new school year repeatedly talking about classroom shop and workplace safety. Kochman’s presentation made for a great fit.
“We’re real fortunate to have him,” Meide said. “It’s good for the kids to hear it from someone else.”
Evan Donnot, a freshman in Meide’s class, said he takes all the safety talk seriously. “It sinks in for me,” he said.
Teenagers can be rowdy, Donnot said. And younger teens maybe won’t take safety as seriously as their older counterparts. So it’s important that students hear about it, he said.
Classmate Jason Bradley, a junior, said intelligence also plays a role.
“Part of it’s age,” he said. “Most of it’s knowledge.”
Kochman said he wasn’t surprised students pick up on the message.
“They pay attention,” he said. “And if we can get kids aware right from the get-go, we can be successful.”
Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.
com or 657-1231.