Safety First

Workplace Safety
Greetings all, Henry here today, once again filling in for my son Stephen. Stephen injured himself at the gym and has since given his time over completely to trying to score sympathy from his girlfriend. He reports some limited success.

Out walking this morning I was struck again how important safety is for all of us. As I came by, work crews were cutting down unneeded tree branches and throwing them into one of those chipper machines, which chews up the branch and shoots the chips into a truck. I have always thought those could be very dangerous.

It reminded me that most work is dangerous. Even the relatively sedentary work of the computer 'geek' can lead to trouble. In the bad old days, we had to watch out for predators and natural dangers, but apparently our bodies were not designed to sit staring at a screen hours on end either. Carpel tunnel, back and neck problems, eternal headaches and eye strain are some of the most common complaints.

Everything we humans have devised seems to have its down side. I grew up on a farm which statistically is supposed to be the most dangerous place to work. I had an uncle who was killed by a horse, and all of us suffered an assortment of "misfortunes."

My father was the most accident prone among us. I am reminded of the time when he was nearly killed by the tractor. That is an easy thing to do as, like the computer in our modern jobs, the tractor is essential to farm work. My father was a very imaginative problem solver, but perhaps not the most careful person and sometimes his solving a problem left a worse one in its place.

We had a fertilizer spreader that had been transformed from a two-horse machine to one that could be pulled by a tractor. Although he never had his own t.v. show, my father was the McGyver of our community. He was always adapting one thing into another thing, which only he knew how to use. When he died I inherited his tools, many of which looked remarkably like bent pieces of metal, though they no doubt had an important function for him.

My father was having trouble with the tractor. His seat kept breaking and falling off. He had it welded on twice before he finally gave up. As a man in his advanced 70’s, perhaps he felt he didn’t have endless time to "get things done."

His solution was to put an apple box over the stump of the seat, cover it with a couple of sheep pelts and an old sheep coat. (Safety-conscious readers will already have noticed a problem with this plan.) Piled high, he was the king of the field…except one day when he started out to spread fertilizer. When he got to the end of the field and prepared to turn, he reached back to pull on the rope attached to the leaver to turn off the fertilizer (another of his adjustments). That was when disaster struck.

The apple box in which he had so much faith slipped and he went over the back of the tractor, falling between the tractor and the fertilizer spreader. He was dressed very heavily and instead of being crushed was rolled along to the end of the field, through the fence and down through the ditch. Thankfully the tractor stalled trying to drag the sower up out of the ditch. My mother was surprised to see him driving down the road with the loaded fertilizer sower. He had to confess his stupidity and near disaster. Finally, shortly afterwards the seat was permanently fixed. Sometimes my father's imaginative shortcuts worked brilliantly, but this was clearly not one of those times.

This is a bizarre tale of a bizarre incident, but I tell it because we all become accustomed to danger, devise shortcuts to save time and in the long run put ourselves in danger, straining ourselves at work, taking chances on the road, taking the subway, etc. I'm afraid this is a family trait, as my son Stephen recently maimed himself at the gym trying to save time, avoiding the practical reality. I am sure that there are a lot of computer 'geeks' out there who are working in much less than optimum conditions and are suffering because of it, or at least are beginning to get the first symptom of an angry body that needs some relief.

Henry Sharam

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I remember

I worked for a very brief period at a huge sports box store and they had a rickety ladder that we were supposed to use in the front, which was meant to hold us 20 feet in the air. In the back they had no ladder at all and we were meant to scramble up the shelves like monkeys and pull down huge boxes with no support. I gently suggested at the staff meeting that they might want to get a new ladder before somebody broke their head and the suggestion was greeted with an immediate, "Oh yes, safety first, I'll buy a new ladder today. Safety is the number one priority." Needless to say, the broken ladder made it's way to the back room to improve conditions there and we were left with no ladder at all out front, apparently expected to use our telekinetic powers to lift down heavy boxes. I quit shortly afterwards:)

Steve Sharam

How very topical.

I'm currently at home with a pretty bad back injury. I hurt myself at work on Oct. 5 and have been stuck on my sofa ever since. I work as a peer counselor for a mental health organization, which sounds very sedate. It isn't. I help carry groceries and assist clients in cleaning their houses and drive all over town from client to client. Can't do any of that stuff at the moment.

Note to all: be careful when you pick things up! I got hurt just carrying groceries up a flight of stairs, and at 6'1" I'm no delicate flower...

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That's very true

I hurt myself at the gym, not doing anything I hadn't done lots of times before, but for some reason it caught up with me this time. :( Let's all feel better soon, eh:P

Steve Sharam


The littlest thing can cause us grief even though we are physically strong. Carrying groceries sounds quite productive but I have found that I am my own worst enemy. In the past I have taken on too much, carried too much weight, strained too hard, etc. I have had too much of that sense that I'm immortal. It can happen to the other guy but is not likely to happen to me. Now there is a recipe for disaster. It has come in the shape of a strained back, pulled muscles, and damaged joints.

Perhaps you are not like me and are very safety conscious. It just struck me that I don't have to take responsibility for all of this. I can blame it on an accident prone father. Perhaps you have someone you can blame your safety problems on as well. Love to hear about them.

Henry Sharam

Now that's a slippery slope...

'Cause if you can blame your accident prone nature on your father, than I can blame mine on you:) Just sayin'.

It's true though. Most of us are not high-rise construction workers or buskers who juggle flaming chainsaws, but we manage to get hurt anyway. Come to think of it, it must be terrible trying to get life insurance as a flaming chainsaw juggling busker. Just sayin':)

Steve Sharam


I'm not safety conscious at all. Well, I wasn't. I have to be now and in the future, though...

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It seems to me that it is the duty of fathers to take the blame for theings they didn't see coming.

I have been able to blame my father for many things which he would hardly recognize. It is so much harder to be responsiible and like caligatia says to become conscious of our own foibles. Of course our fall back position has to be "I'm fine it is the world which is screwed up."