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November 2014 #3: Return of the Switchblade


1. Welcome to the latest edition of the Friday Funnies, your weekly opportunity to squeeze the lemonade of hazard awareness out of the lemons of other people’s painful, embarrassing and costly mishaps.

A. Running for a first-aid kit this week is an E-6 hospital corpsman (the good news is that he should know where to find one and just what to do once he gets there). Seems he reached into his pocket and cut himself on what the mishap report described as a “spring-assisted knife.”

Back in the day, we called this sort of device a “switchblade,” but that can’t be right, because you had to wear your hair greased back in a ducktail, roll your cigarettes up in your T-shirt sleeve, and belong to a street gang. Same technology, apparently. There’s always an unintended consequence, isn’t there?

B. In North Carolina, a civilian aircraft mechanic repaired some wiring on a helicopter rotor blade. The final step was to apply shrink wrap, a process that involves a heat gun. When he finished, he put the heat gun on a work bench and turned it off so that it could cool down before he put it back in his tool box. He then turned his attention back to the rotor blade, checking his work.

Personally, I wouldn’t have felt the need to put a sign on it saying, “Hands off, cooldown in process.” Then again, I wouldn’t have figured on a coworker borrowing it because his own heat gun was broken. He used it for 15 or 20 minutes, neatly negating the planned 15-to-20-minute cooldown, and put it back on the work bench.

Did he announce, “Hey, man, I borrowed your heat gun,” a common-sense precaution that would have taken about 10 seconds? If he had, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Alas, worker number one then picked up the heat gun by its plastic handle, reached up to remove the metal nozzle, and burned his hand and fingers.

C. This week’s least warfare-centric mishap was an employee who strained her scapula “disposing of a diaper.” I can think of several things to say, but in each case, I’ve had to shake my head and think, “Nope, that one isn’t going to fly.” Sorry, you’ll have to make up your own.  

D. Here’s a not-so-funny, just to keep you on your toes. In California, a team of Marines was breaking down a training site. One of the tasks was to cart away some concertina wire. I suspect that this task is easier said than done, and it doesn’t get any easier when it is dark and the transport vehicle is an ATV.

The report doesn’t give much detail about what caused the ensuing wreck. “Type of problem: Not reported,” it says, and “Vehicle safety equipment (None).” We’re left to guess about visibility, speed, road conditions, and whatever the E-6 at the controls had been doing. He was ejected and slammed into the roll bar, which knocked him out. An ambulance took him to a hospital, where doctors treated him for a broken rib, a chipped disk in his spine, a concussion, damage to his lungs, and various broken bones and cuts. He spent three days in a hospital, three weeks away from work and a month of light duty.

Is it too hard to put seatbelts in those things? Would a restraint interfere with the “tactical” aspects? Why, whenever I read the word “tactical” in a mishap report, does it seem to be an excuse for doing something unnecessarily dangerous? What good does a roll bar do if you’re flying around loose – give you something to hold onto so you can smash your hand when you’re upside down?

2. That’s all for this time, friends and neighbors. See you next week.

Got a Funnies-worthy yarn? Need to get something off your chest? We welcome your feedback: nrfk_safe_funnies@navy.mil. 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.  


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