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The last year in my new position at Habitat for Humanity Eastern Connecticut has been a time of learning, and both professional and personal growth.
Integrating new building techniques with both volunteer and professional tradespeople can be challenging at times. Add into that mix our homeowners and some days are like herding cats.
What I have I learned from those experiences? We have all heard the expression“fear is the enemy.” A great electrician, and even better friend, Gary challenged that notion and said, “That is not the case at all.” He submits, “complacency is the enemy.”
Two events of the past year have driven that point home.
In my downtime, I really enjoy building bean bag toss game sets. Mostly for friends, but I have sold a set or two. We had a tournament slated for the third weekend of September and I had 10 sets of boards that were needed for the event.
On Labor Day weekend of September 2015, I had some time before we headed to a local fair to enjoy some food and music. I searched the job site trailers for my usual table saws and couldn’t find them. I looked around the garage and found my dad’s old school table saw tucked in the corner. I pulled it out and cleared some space, but not enough. Then I didn’t use push sticks and all the guards had been removed years ago. You see, I was complacent and didn’t pay attention or heed any of the warning signs that something bad was about to happen. Add to that, I was rushing to get this done before we left for the fair. (I will add we were supposed to have been leaving at this point in time, but my mother in law was running late, so in fact what happened next is really her fault.)
Well, in an instant my left thumb contacted the saw blade and I was off to the ER instead of the fair. A few seconds of complacency led to surgery to repair my thumb and six months of rehab. A year later there is still lingering effects of the incident, but it is almost back to normal. (On a side note, within a few hours of this picture we did make it to the fair.)
The second incident happened just a few weeks ago. We had a volunteer group from all over the United States and Scotland by way of the Cayman Islands to work with us for a full week. They were a wonderful group that worked extremely hard doing demolition on a property we are rehabbing.
I had shutoff all power to the home via the breaker panel and the basement was sectioned off into two areas; one area had no contact with the breaker panel. Harold, one of the volunteers, was tasked with cutting out the wires in the area away from the panel.
Away I went to check on the others. This was one of those herding cats days. Trying to keep them on task and not run out of work. Not five minutes later I circle back around and see Harold, he comes over and says, “Hey Dino, there is still a live wire in the basement.” I think, wow, that is really strange, and ask him to take me over to the wire. He takes me directly to the panel and shows me the entrance cable cut about a quarter of the way through. I just about passed out. There is a hole the size of my pinky finger in the cable cutters from the arc of electricity. Thankfully these were fiberglass handles with big rubber grips.
I said, “Harold that must have scared the bleep out of you.”
“Yeah, there were a lot of sparks and a big pop.”
Lucas, my site partner from the day, got back from a dumping run and knew something was wrong. He said I looked white as snow. “Well I almost killed Harold,” and then proceeded to tell him the story. Harold is a great guy with an awesome sense of humor. We joked a lot that week about Harold cutting the cord.
Thankfully we could continue to joke about the event. Lucas is going to visit Harold next week in San Francisco and bring him the piece of wire from his “enlightening” experience.
Construction is a dangerous line of work. Doing it yourself or as a professional, we always have to be on guard for dangerous situations and mitigate the danger when we can. I have found, myself included, that professionals take more chances because “we know what we are doing, or we have done this before.”
When working around the house take your time, follow all safety precautions, and do not disable any safety guards. Always remember that complacency is the enemy. I think fear actually keeps you focused.
Stay sharp and don’t let the table saws bite.