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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

In The Shop: Machismo Or Lack Of Patience?

Nov 17, 2011

 Why do we do it? Why do we grind steel without safety glasses or a face shield? Why do we crawl under equipment without blocking it up? Why do we mess with anhydrous ammonia or pesticides without proper safety equipment?

Machismo and ego might be part of it---we think only girly-men worry about getting hurt. But we take the risks even when nobody is watching, so who are we trying to impress?

For me, the biggest reason for skirting safety is lack of patience. I'm in a hurry to grind a burr off a piece of steel; I'm only going to be under the machine long enough to grab the wrench I dropped; I'm just going to knock frozen mud off a knife on the anhydrous applicator. It would take longer to find a face shield, jackstand or goggles and gloves than it will to accomplish my mission. I always seem to be in a hurry.

But I'm learning to be more patient, to take time to grab and put on proper safety gear. I've been to an optometrist three times in the past 35 years to have steel filings taken from my eyes, even though I wear prescription glasses with safety lenses. After the last trip I vowed to force myself to take the extra 30 seconds to put on a face shield or goggles before turning on a grinder, cut-off saw or die grinder. You'd think I would have got the hint after the first trip to an eye doctor, but I guess I'm a slow learner.

However, I learned fast about anhydrous ammonia. I was always "cautious" around anhydrous, but one day another guy and I were working on a leaky quick-coupler on an anhydrous applicator. He started fiddling with it, said it had already "bled off", but for once I took time to put on gloves and goggles. Long story short, the coupler wasn't bled off, it "popped" and blew a couple ounces of anhydrous onto the guy's arms, face and upper chest. He hit the ground screaming. I managed to drag him to the water jug on the nurse tank, got him dowsed with water, then hauled him to the emergency room. He was wearing sunglasses that deflected the liquid from his eyes. I got enough water on his face and hands so he ended up only with blisters like a bad sunburn on his exposed skin, but the cuffs of his longsleeve shirt absorbed more anhydrous than I could neutralize, and froze to the skin of his wrists. He still has scars on his wrists. 

That's why I wear goggles and gloves whenever I'm even CLOSE to anhydrous application equipment. I'm getting better about wearing goggles or face shields when cutting or grinding metal. I'm already pretty religious about never crawling under equipment without first blocking it up. And I ALWAYS put the toilet seat down before I leave the bathroom. I may do some dangerous things, but I'm not stupid.

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