Monday Top 5: Near Death Experiences
We’ve all had them – pulse-pounding moments of, “Oh God, I almost just died just then,” near accidents. Sure, maybe it wasn’t death (more like dismemberment or impaling), but it sure felt like it at the time. While these stories are funny in retrospect and over beer the night after (and in some cases, for years and years afterward), the fact is that we could all learn something from them. Let’s be honest, no matter how careful and conscientious you are, it is only a matter of time before you forget something. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk away with a good story and a memory burned in your head that will prevent that particular mistake from ever happening again. If not… well, let’s hope you can still walk. As an aside – a disproportionate amount of these involve nailers. If that doesn’t encourage you to be careful when using them… well, we’ll see you at the hospital.
1) (Tom) Nail Gun to the Hand
One of my workers, while up on a ladder, was using a Bostitch siding nailer and accidentally shot himself though the hand with a 2.5″ stainless steel ring shank siding nail. How he did it still is a little cloudy, but our best guess is that the rubber guard on the end of the nailer was starting to fall off and he went to bump it back on with the palm of his hand. Of course, he still had his hand on the trigger, so the nailer fired off when the tip was bumped. While at the hospital, they actually put him under to remove the nail since the head was literally buried in his palm. The amazing thing about this injury was that it completely missed all the bones and main arteries and he was back to work just four days later. Lesson of this story: Take your finger OFF the trigger and disconnect the air hose if you are going to work on a nailer, clear a jam, or do anything other than nail with it.
2) (Tom) Circular Saw to the Leg
My brother Jon, while framing a house in Alaska, was just getting started for the day and was trying to put in the last few pieces of diagonal blocking. Since his saw horses were being used by some of the other guys on the job, he decided to make the long diagonal rip across a 2×4 using his knee as a support. With one hand holding the 2×4, the other holding the saw he started to cut. Of course, that was when the saw bound up, kicked back and sliced a nice raggedy edged wound nearly an inch deep and 3 inches long on the inside of his right knee. Not wishing to make a scene since the homeowners were on site, he grabbed some duct tape and literally taped himself back together and continued to work. Thankfully, the cut was in the meat on the edge of his knee and it missed the bone and any tendons. Moral of the story: first off, use a table saw to make rip cuts – and always use a non-human support like saw horses or other scraps of wood to support your cuts.
3) (Greg) Nail Gun to the Knee
I once had a friend come over with an X-ray in hand. He whipped it out and I cringed as I realized it was an X-ray of a knee with a nail sticking out of it. Apparently, he was on a job and working quickly when he took a quick moment to catch his breath and wipe the sweat from his brow. Somehow, he lowered the gun and popped a nail directly into the top of his knee (he was down on the other knee at the time). Of course, he completely freaked out and ran (figuratively) to the hospital. After the X-ray the doctor announced he had somehow missed all of the vital parts of the knee. He pulled it out, put a band-aid on it and sent him on his way. He carried that X-ray with him for a month.
4) (Everett) Short Way Down
When working atop a small shed located in the back of a friend’s yard I decided to jump down off of it instead of using a ladder. Down below were some old boards, but at the time I thought nothing of it. When I landed I was somewhat off balance and fell backwards, landing on my rump with my hands at my sides. All seemed well until I lifted my left hand… and found a 2x4x12 coming up with it. Seems I had landed, palm down, on a 16d nail, which, conveniently for me, had managed to miss every tendon in my hand. The nail had punctured between my left thumb and index finger and I had a nice 2-inch tall “tent” of skin where the nail hadn’t quite poked through the other side. I pushed the wood down with my right hand, releasing me from the nail, and headed to the hospital… A tetanus shot and some anti-bacterial wash later and I was back in business… I always use a ladder now.
5) (Everett) Nice Article, I Cut Off My Fingers Anyway
Literally one day after I wrote an editorial article about how table saw lawsuits were going to destroy the saw industry and were bad for America, a friend of mine contacted me while I was at a concert and told me that a mutual friend of ours had just done in his left hand while working on a project. Apparently, our mutual friend had been ripping some 1×6’s to make some trim for his 1920’s-style home and got his left hand snagged by a table saw. He had been using a push stick and his right (pushing) hand was nowhere near the blade. Somehow he had gotten distracted momentarily and his left hand had come overtop and had gotten caught. The blade took out the tip of his ring finger, sliced his middle finger nearly off at the first joint and went through about half of the tip of his index finger. Needless to say, he was very fortunate to have been working with a friend at the time and was driven directly to the emergency room. The amazing and wonderful thing about this experience is that they were able to repair all three fingers, nails and all and since my friend was determined to outdo the physical therapist, he now has complete use of his fingers. I saw him back at the table saw just a few weeks ago.
Bonus: (All) Heavy Stuff on a Ladder
We don’t know what it’ll take for people to learn. It says it on every ladder, your father warned you of it, and you still probably have a story. Whether it is a hammer, paint can, various screwdrivers, chisels, cordless tools, or simply extra nails or screws, we’ve all done it. We’ve all left something heavy and/or sharp on top of a ladder and forgot about it. When we go to move the ladder, down comes whatever was up there. We’ve heard/experienced all sorts of injuries from leaving stuff on top of ladders from loss of consciousness to cuts and abrasions. We’re sure there are people out there that have died from it. Moral of the story… either get a better memory, use a workbelt, or simply bring down what you brought up.
The real question now is will you learn from us or make the same mistakes? What amazed us after recounting these stories to each other was the fact that no lasting damage occurred and in most cases, where there could have been a complete disaster, the grace of God prevented any permanent injuries. He doesn’t always work that way, so we feel fortunate and hope that this article helps generate a little bit more caution when using tools of any kind. It only takes about 1/1000th of a second in some cases!