Saw It Coming…!

May 18, 2007


Looking at a post on Trainee Paramedics site reminded me of a job that I attended some time ago. It was one of life’s mishaps that could befall any one of us…even the expert!

It was the first day for the twenty or so kids in the woodwork shop at the local junior high school. As with any activity involving sharp things, pointy things, cutty things and machinery things safety was of paramount importance.

To this end the woodwork teacher embarked on a series of health & safety lectures to instill in his young students the importance of concentration and adherence to strict procedures.

After covering the basics of tool care and displaying the sharpness of finely honed chisels he moved onto the machinery that can be found in any woodwork class in any school. Firstly the importance of using the correct tool/machine for the job was stressed.

Secondly the all important bright red safety stop buttons were pointed out. Thirdly he moved to the circular saw machine to demonstrate a simple example of good working practice. With the class gathered around watching patiently to see the master at work passing on his years of experience, he started up the machine.

With a low humming the great vertical disc of serrated steel whirred away waiting to slice through pieces of wood like a hot knife through butter. Placing a long strip of wood on the machine the woodwork teacher pushed towards the spinning teeth of the disc. The low humming was replaced by a high pitched grinding as the teeth bit into the wood.

As the piece of wood got towards the end the teacher used another block of wood to push it all the way through. Thus not risking his own fingers becoming a dessert for the ever hungry saw. This sequence was repeated several times to show the class the safe way to do it.

Then, in a momentary flash of inspiration to reinforce the learning, he went on to show them how not to do it. And this is where after teaching thousands of kids over many decades the craft of woodworking he had a momentary loss of concentration.

Dispensing with the block of wood he proceeded to push another plank towards the saw. As the saws teeth chewed up the plank he gingerly and deftly moved his fingers along the ever decreasing wood. Turning to his young charges, still pushing the plank through, he announced “I dont want anyone doing this!”

And with that the final few inches of plank sailed through the circular saws teeth…closely followed by his fingers! Blood spattered across the machine and he withdrew his hand looking at where the ends of his four fingers used to be!

The kids in his class were mightily impressed and thought initially that he had used some special effects props to demonstrate this lesson. Their opinion soon changed quickly. As quickly as the the colour of the teachers skin changed to a very pale white and beads of sweat ran down his forehead.

When I arrived on scene I retrieved his fingers while my crewmate dressed his hand. Putting the four digits in a bag and placing in a small container of ice, we shot off to the hospital putting in a pre-alert call. Unfortunately the fingers were too badly damaged to be reattached.



One good thing came out of this…the kids in that class will never mess with a circular saw