Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flesh is Material Too

The image above is a picture of my right hand taken several days ago (Note: I apologize for the graphic grizzle sports fans, but I am trying to make a point! There's a little more after the jump, so you've been warned.) Looking at this image makes me think about Conan's "Riddle of Steel". In the epic John Milius movie, Conan the Barbarian, Thusla Doom told Conan that the answer to the riddle was "that flesh was stronger that steel". Thulsa was right (sort of), but to see the picture of my cut hand you would think he was wrong, and not because correct because it was glass that actually cut my hand, but hold that thought!

Did you know there is something called "Safety Week" on the Internets? Well there is and we are in the middle of it right now. Do you feel safer? I do.

This is fairly coincidental because for several reasons. Firstly, because of the recent sad news of a Yale Student that was killed in a school machine shop several weeks ago. As a teacher and person who has been in charge of several student shops, this is my worst nightmare and deeply troubling. Secondly, I found myself in the emergency room last week, after having cut myself performing a seemingly mundane task in the studio. While this injury was a sobering reminder of the inherent dangers of working with material and machinery, I am proud that this was the FIRST TIME I have ever received stitches in a work-related injury (despite one or two close calls). That's a safety record plan on keeping and improving upon for the next 30 years.

Nevertheless, I am really unhappy about my injury, irrespective of it's severity. As the doctor was treating my hand, he said, "You must be used to this by now."
To which I replied, "I sure hope not. Otherwise, I better find something better to do with my life."

The funny thing is that as he stitched up the cuts, in addition to thinking that he could really have used more anesthetic, I was thinking he was also a craftsperson.  His craft was fixing people and his medium was flesh and bone. As sat there watching him sew the skin closed with needle and thread, I was thinking: that doesn't look that hard, I could do that (haha). We chatted about working injuries and he told me "this was nothing". He said that typically with construction and woodworking injuries the first thing that goes through his mind is: "Ok, what can I save?"
No Fun!

So in the spirit of craft and safety week, here are some of my thoughts about everyday safety:

1. Safety is always the primary concern when making anything. If you can't do something confidently and safely, stop and figure out another way. 

2. Taking preventions only works if you take them before something goes wrong. Accidents are called accidents because you don't intend for them to happen. So prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The right safety gear will prevent accidents and make working more enjoyable. Eye and ear protection are so easy that there is no excuse to always have them in place. The right footwear and work clothes are also no brainers. Particulate control is also something you should never ignore.

Case in point:
Three weeks ago, I would have gotten an eyeball full of Behlen's Qualasole if I hadn't been wearing glasses. I wasn't paying attention and shook the bottle with the cap not fully on. MY GLASSES SAVED MY EYE (and its certainly not the first time). I hate it when people say " Oh I don't need to wear safety glasses because I'm not using anything with power" or "I am in the shop, but not working". I can recite plenty of horror stories that can make you think twice about that.

3. Speed is not a substitute for good judgment. If you are working in a hurry, you should probably work on your time management. Otherwise, you'll end up wondering how you quickly found yourself in the ER.

4. Never work alone. Don't do it. The really bad accidents happen fast. If you make it through the worst of it, your body will certainly be wanting to go into shock. You'll need help quick. Even in minor accidents a second pair of hands is invaluable. Also never work behind locked doors or block the doors while you are working.

5. If you are tired: go home, take a nap, go to bed.

6. If you have a close call or worse and get hurt: your work day is over, go home.

7. If it cuts wood, plastic, metal, glass, or ceramic, it will also flesh and bone too (really easily).
8. You only have one body, it's disposable.  Focus on the long term gain and don't be lured into the short con.

This is what I think about with First Aid in order of importance. FYI: I'm not a doctor, nurse or EMT, so take this with a grain of salt:

1. Stop Bleeding. If it's bad, apply pressure directly to the wound for at least 5-8 minutes. If you have to release pressure, start the clock again

2. Get help- It's important to have someone around can help even if it's just to put on a band-aid. It becomes really important in case you pass out. I have a strong stomach, but even I get nauseous when cut. It's not uncommon to feel like you have to throw up or pass out. It's annoying, but evolutionary. Sit down, take a sip of water.

3. Clean you wound as best as you can. Flush out debris and clean with soap and water. If you aren't going to the hospital. Your going to have to mechanically scrub the wound with soap. If you cant handle that, get a friend or better yet, go to the hospital. This a pretty good time to bust out the Betadyne or hydrogen peroxide if you've got it.

4. Dress the wound as best as possible.  Making sure that the dressing can be easily removed when you do get to the hospital. If you aren't going to the hospital, make sure the dressing won't interfere with healing and will be easy to change.

5. Go to the hospital. Have friend drive you or get an ambulance. If you are feeling faint, or the bleeding is not under control don't do something stupid like bike or drive there.

6. If you are wondering if you should go to the hospital, guess what? You should go to the hospital.
The worst that can happen is they say no you are OK. I have heard so many stories about people that thought they were OK and they were very much NOT OK.

Back to Thulsa Doom and Conan. Ultimately, the answer Riddle of Steel for Conan was that the will is more powerful that steel or the hand that wields it. So impose your will by working safely and the flesh will be impervious to the steel (or glass)!

Be safe! Be like Conan!


Stereoette said...


About 2 months ago I had a minor disaster - jeweler's saw got stuck, and then abruptly loosened itself... into my fingertip. it didnt really hurt but i instinctively stuck my finger into my mouth... and when I tasted Lots and Lots of blood, I knew it was probably a problem.

Lesson learned - keep steri strips and emergency grade wound wash around the house, and your mother on speed dial, if she happens to be a doctor.

nielscosman said...

I hope it turned out alright!
It's funny how sometime the most seemingly innocent tools are the ones that get you!

I agree about the first-aid supplies and the speed dial. It's always good to have easy access to your supplies when you only have one hand available to get bandaids and bits. also tear-able tape is a must. One of my projects in the works is a redesigned first-aid kit that actually looks like it belongs in the home, instead of a bombshelter or tank.

My sister is an all-start nurse practitioner, and is also my "phone-a-friend" lifeline in all issues accidental.