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July 2014 #1: Another Fourth Goes South

1. Welcome to the latest edition of the Summary of Mishaps, the official newsletter of the Organization of Obvious Precautions and Safeguards (O.O.P.S), voted "Best Emergency-Room Reading Material" four years in a row by ambulance drivers and nurses.

A. Just before midnight on a Fourth of July, an E-5 was launching what the mishap report called “aerial shell fireworks” as part of the festivities. These were like little mortar shells – you lit the fuse before dropping them in the tube. He had attached a flat piece of cardboard to the tube to make it more stable.

He had fired off four with no problem, but the fifth shell briefly hung up as it descended the tube. It then soared skyward and blew up. He lit the fuse for the sixth one, but it didn’t drop to the bottom but stuck near the top. Seeing this obvious hazard, he tried to shove it down into the tube. It went off with his hand in the danger zone, breaking some bones and blowing off the tip of a finger.

An E.R. visit and two surgeries later, he had a metal rod in his hand, faced the possibility of more surgery and was waiting for doctors to decide the extent of his disability.

This is why they say to leave fireworks to the pros. If you insist on doing it yourself, assuming there are some states where it is still legal, you sure better learn when to turn, run and holler out a warning.

B. Speaking of fireworks, another report describes a foreign civilian employee who was “off duty lighting fireworks.” He “underestimated the range of fire emb” and ended up injuring his “ear(s).”

Sigh. Why must these reports throw in random mysteries? What the heck is a “fire emb”? I originally thought the word was a truncated form of “ember,” but who knows. Was his hearing damaged? Did a flying ember end up in his ear?

C. In California, an E-6 Seabee was in bed at 2145. We don’t know if he had been asleep, or was trying to fall asleep. And we don’t know if the temperature had dropped or if a tomcat outside was screeching a love song. However, for some reason, he had to get up and close a window. Arising, he knocked a mason jar off his night stand. It landed on his toe.

Steam instantly spouted from his ears. He slammed the window with enough violence and lack of coordination that his hand went through the glass, slicing the bajabbers out of his finger. Next stop: the closest E.R. and six stitches.

Car wrecks, house fires, floods, knocking things off night stands – the list of calamities just gets longer and longer.

D. E-7 information systems technician was plugging a computer tower into a surge protector. This is a good thing, right? It’s a protector, for goodness sake. It keeps things safe. It guards all those circuits and electrons on which modern life depends. What could go wrong?

Well, this surge protector had a short and the chief left it plugged in, so the current was free to surge right into her hand.

Note to self: Call R&D, investigate availability of special surge-protective gloves for use while plugging stuff into surge protectors.

2. That all for this episode, folks. See you next week.

Got a Funnies-worthy yarn? Need to get something off your chest? We welcome your feedback:

Read the author's blog, "Beyond the Friday Funnies." If you have a question about some of our odd terminology, become an insider by studying up on our Glossary. And if you have even more time to kill, here's the exhibit list from the Summary of Mishaps Museum.

Last Revision: July 3, 2014