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John Nordal isn't really a workplace safety hazard. He just plays one on YouTube TV.

The West Albany High School junior is on one of two mid-valley teams to reach the finalist level in the 2018 high school safety video contest, organized by Oregon Young Employee Safety.

Nordal and his video partner, West Albany graduate Kyle Smith, are competing with Alex Vartanov and Danny Mason of Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis and five other video contestants in the "Speak Up. Work Safe" contest.

Videos from all top seven finalists are available for viewing on YouTube, at

The top three entries will take home cash prizes ranging from $300 to $500 and will earn a matching amount for their school. Winners will be announced April 28.

Oregon Young Employee Safety, known as O[yes], organizes the contest each year under the sponsorship of a variety of organizations, including Oregon OSHA, SAIF Corporation, local Oregon chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University.

To enter, high school students had to create a video of no more than 90 seconds around the concept of speaking up about hazards at work. Videos were judged on originality, youth appeal, overall production quality and effective use of the message “Speak up. Work safe."

Nordal and Smith entered the contest hoping to improve on last year's effort, which netted them third place and a $300 prize.

In both contest entries, Smith is the cranky boss demanding that Nordal accomplish a particular job and waving away any worries about being properly trained on the necessary equipment. This year's video involves using a winch to lift a heavy barrel, with disastrous results for Nordal.

Said Nordal, nodding at Smith: "He knew someone who had a shop —"

"And a lot of dangerous equipment —" Smith put in.

"So we thought that would be pretty good," Nordal finished.

Both Nordal and Smith actually took plenty of their own safety precautions in recording the video, however. At no time was Nordal really in danger from the falling barrel.

"We just photographed it from about a billion angles," Smith said. "In some of the shots, he looks like he's standing closer to the barrel than he really is." 

Both team members said they are studying computer skills and like to make videos as a hobby.

Nordal said he thinks the contest is a good way to make people think twice about their actions, especially in the workplace.

"Younger people are maybe more likely to put themselves in dangerous situations because they want to keep their jobs," he said.

At Crescent Valley, juniors Vartanov and Mason show a young worker about to mix cleaning supplies. Safety Joe comes to the rescue to avoid a potential catastrophe.

The two said they took as their inspiration the old public service announcements that used to cap off G.I. Joe television cartoons in the mid-1980s. "Since we aren’t animators, we decided to make it live action while retaining an '80s vibe," the team wrote in an email to the Democrat-Herald.

Mason and Vartanov both take film class and entered the contest after learning about it from their teacher, Kevin Freedman.

"I’ve always loved movies and at some point considered making my own. So, I took filmmaking my freshmen year and have been making movies in the class ever since. I find filmmaking to be the best medium to express my ideas and I love the process that goes into making a movie," Vartanov said.

Mason said he got into videos as a fun way to complete homework assignments. "I’ve always been writing songs and skits for classes, and video creation was a natural extension of my creativity. I saw Freedman’s film making class as a way to learn and improve that skill."

If they make the final cut, Mason and Vartanov said they'll see their selection as confirmation of their filmmaking skills and something they can use for future portfolios.

"It’s a good feeling, you can’t put a price on it," Mason said.

That said, the two are very interested in taking home a cash prize. "We’re not totally certain on what we’ll spend the money on, but game consoles definitely come to mind," Vartanov said.

"Honestly? I need a new mattress, and that money could change my life," Mason said. "My first trip will be to Mattress World."


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