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Rated: 13+ · Book · Community · #1031057
My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
#395448 added December 29, 2005 at 6:49pm
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Heavy Thoughts
Today was one of those days that make you sit up and take notice. Two news reports caused me to reflect on my life and the “there but for the grace of God go I” aspect of it.

The first came out of Colorado, where a tree trimmer was caught in a wood chipper and died. A tragedy we would all agree, but not unlike many of the other deaths we read about or hear about on a daily basis. One of hazards of this instant communication world is that on a sensory level we get inundated with repeats of the same type of information. The first death of a soldier in Iraq is interpreted much differently than the 1648th death. Especially when you are updated on the number on a daily basis. The horrific death of a tree trimmer in a chipper, however, becomes much more personal when you’ve walked in his shoes.

In another life, long ago, I cleared trees from power line right-of ways for a living. I spent time, just about every day feeding limbs and brush into a chipper, much the same as the one involved in today’s tragedy. They are without a doubt, dangerous machines. I’ve had gloves and even a wristwatch ripped from my hands and arm while chipping. I’m here to tell you it gives you pause to watch the glove that moment’s before was on your hand, exiting the chute on the chipper like a thousand pieces of confetti. Cutting trees is a dangerous job. Everything involved with it, power line or no power line, requires your unerring attention, every moment you are doing it. Homeowners end up in emergency rooms with terrible injuries from chain saws on a regular basis. Professionals do also. The reasons, I believe, for each, are quite different. With a homeowner, a weekend warrior, a lot of it is inexperience. I have not cut on a daily basis in over twenty years. Today I would put myself in the homeowner category. True, it would not take me long to get back in the saddle, so to speak, and some things, once learned, you never forget, but the simple repetitive experience gained from the day to day operation of a chainsaw and chipper is something a homeowner never gets.

And that same experience is the downfall of the professional. You do the same things, day in and day out. They become second nature to you, so much so that you do them without even thinking. Maybe you feed limbs into that chipper a thousand times the same way, but on the one thousand and first time, something is just not quite the same. You, however, don’t even notice. Bye-bye wristwatch…or worse.

The second news item today was much closer to home. In western PA, a gas well erupted in flames while a Halliburton crew was working on it. Two men were critically injured and flown to the hospital. At least five more were also injured to some degree.

In my current life, I work helping to regulate the oil and gas industry in PA. I have spent time at well sites and have been on drilling rigs. The job of drilling a gas well is every bit as dangerous as cutting trees. The details of the accident have not all been collected yet, but I feel certain that when they are, they will show that a moment’s inattention by someone who does this type of work, day in and day out, resulted in the explosion and injuries. I don’t know if any of the injured are people I’ve met in the course of my job, but they could be. I do know that dealing with explosive gas under pressure is risky business even on the best day, yet these workers do just that, with surprisingly few injuries. When it happens, it is not usually the kind of injury that lets you get away with a simple band-aid.

So, “there but for the grace of God go I” is a thought that ways heavy on my mind today. As well it should.

© Copyright 2005 Rasputin (UN: joeumholtz at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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