Falling Feels Just Like Flying — for a Second!! Always Think Safety

My wonderful wife Sandy recently reminded me I’m still not quite caught up on the outdoor chores I promised to complete before summer. Some of these chores will require power tools and ladders so she also reminded me of my last aerial act with a chainsaw and sat me down for a toolbox talk before letting me get started!! Seems she is having flashbacks of an event from several summers ago, I certainly was.

You see, my brother and I were out at our ranch in Vanderpool, Texas for a working weekend to get the place cleaned up for a big 4th of July party with family and friends. Our childhood home sits on some beautiful Texas Hill Country property located on the banks of the Sabinal River some ninety miles west of San Antonio, Texas, and we were determined to throw one of those big ole Texas Bar-B-Qs like our parents hosted years ago.

When I was loading my truck to drive out to the ranch, I threw a chain saw in with the rest of my tools. As I was closing the barn doors, I took one last look around and saw my Stihl power pole saw and wondered if I should bring it.  I did not and will regret it the rest of my life. My brother still refers to it as the $41,000 pole saw as that was the total of medical bills at the end of the ordeal.

Our plan was to first tackle some water well and plumbing issues, which took most of the day. As my brother Bill was wrapping that up, I set out to scope the tree trimming job. We had a limb in one of the huge 100 old live oaks that was about to get tangled in some power lines, and we had determined that we would just cut off about the last 10 feet or so of the limb that was about 15 feet off the ground.  (Sounds like a perfect job for that pole saw still sitting in my barn 100 miles away.)

Anyway – I located an old aluminum extension ladder, got it all positioned, and cranked up the chain saw. Now you can see this coming, can’t you?  And I know you are thinking how stupid this is, but I guarantee that you have done something similarly stupid. It’s just what we men do?? Especially us construction types.

I’m going to jump ahead here for the Safety Lesson in this scenario. First and foremost, Choose and Use the proper tool for a specific job (think pole saw). Secondly – if a ladder is involved – TIE IT OFF!!!! Thirdly – be sure your work area is clear (like there are no concrete cast-in-place picnic tables near the base of your ladder), and, fourthly – if a ladder is involved – before you climb the first rung – take a moment to step back and survey the situation in its entirety, including thinking about and looking for any unintended consequences of your planned actions.

Ok — so man starts saw, man climbs ladder, man cuts limb, limb springs from release of weight of cut limb, untied ladder catapults man into space, man throws saw, man is flying,  man falls with arm behind back to catch fall, wrist cushions man from corner of concrete table but shatters wrist and breaks man’s ribs, man rolls around on ground, moaning and wishing he had loaded the pole saw and tied off the ladder.

Brother concludes man will live but sees wrist is shattered, Brother brings towels and ice, wraps arm, loads man into truck and drives 90 miles to the nearest emergency room. Man waits two hours in emergency room that is full of illegal aliens on a Saturday night for doctor to tell man his wrist is broken.

Man has to wait until Monday morning to see hand surgeon who arranges for procedure to repair hand. Eight days later, swelling is down enough for a three-hour wrist surgery, complete with titanium plates and bone grafts, and man starts rehab. Man finally regains use of his hand but loses a lot of feeling due to nerve damage.

The obvious moral of this story is to practice safety 24/7 wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It’s amazing how common sense can escape us when we get focused on an activity. It’s humbling to find yourself with scars you will carry for a lifetime for just being plain stupid.

Don’t be stupid – use the right tools and always TIE OFF THAT LADDER.

Oh – and by the way – Have a Safe & Happy Summer.

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ToolBoxs Talk Falling Feels Like Flying




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About the author

Kent Leighton, Founder of The Flat Rock Group, has more than 40 years of experience in the Construction and Development Industry. Having owned a successful midsize General Contracting firm he understands the opportunities and trials of running a successful business enterprise. His passion is sharing his victories and his scars with leaders and managers to help them grow and prosper.