Past the dude selling discount Ray-Ban knockoffs at the 2009 Western Montana Fair, redheads Caleb and Brevlin Thompson sling darts at some blue balloons. Gory caricatures sit in pools of blood behind them, grotesque exaggerations of common workplace injuries. Nearby, some teenage girls play a putting game with an eyeball.
"Safety—it's not really sexy," says Mary Boyle, communications specialist for worker's compensation firm Montana State Fund. "It's boring. But with young workers, we're trying to make it fun, trying to have a good time with it and push safety."
Jack's Hall of Horrors is an elaborate–and slightly outlandish–spin on workplace safety awareness courtesy of the minds at State Fund's marketing agency, Partners Creative. The group created Jack, a cartoon mule, as a front for the youth-oriented "No Jack" safety campaign last year. The gist? Don't be a jackass at work.
"We have some funny videos that are sort of a play on the 'Jackass' show," says Amanda Woolley of Partners Creative. "It's kids doing stupid things. We'll show some really freaky ones we got from Canada, as well."
The "No Jack" campaign specifically targets workers between the ages of 16 and 24. (Jack, not surprisingly, joined Facebook last month.) But workplace safety in general is a valuable lesson to emphasize, Woolley says. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4 million non-fatal injuries or illnesses were reported in the workforce nationwide in 2007. In Montana, roughly 7 of every 100 employees that year were involved in on-the-job accidents.
State Fund dropped an estimated $70,000 on Jack's Hall of Horrors, and plans to take the attraction on the road over the next few years.