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Finger-Rippin' Good

Finger-Rippin' Good

154th Regiment (Regional Training Institute)
Mississippi Army National Guard
Camp Shelby, Mississippi

“Crap, that’s going to hurt,” was my immediate thought as I dropped the wrench to the ground and grasped my left index finger with my right hand. “I should have known that was going to happen.” As the blood began oozing through the fingers of my right hand, I knew my eagerness to mow the lawn and smell fresh-cut grass would be delayed to another day. I had planned to mow two lawns that Saturday morning — first my dad’s and then, after lunch, my own. I was excited to finally get outside, enjoy the fresh air and do manly work.

When I arrived at my dad’s house, I was reminded that I needed to perform a little maintenance on his old 22-inch Snapper lawnmower, to include sharpening the blades. He insists the sharper blades ensure a finer cut and help prevent the mower from bogging down when cutting through tall grass. One good thing about the old Snapper is the brackets are located on the back of the mower, allowing it to stand upright for easy blade access. With little difficulty, I was able to remove the bolt, take off the blade and sharpen it to a fine edge.

I was quite proud of the job I did and, after a few seconds of reveling in my handyman prowess, refocused my attention on re-installing the blade. I reached into the tool box and retrieved an oily, scarred, open-ended wrench. Like the lawn mower, this well-worn tool had seen better days, but my dad refused to throw it away. I used it to remove the blade, so I thought the wrench would be good for at least one more job.

I proceeded to reinstall the sharpened blade with my bare hands despite my dad’s warning to wear gloves. I tightened the bolt and then wiggled the blade to ensure it was snuggly seated. I never know how much torque to place on a wrench and the majority of the time go off feel. Although the blade was tightly affixed to the base, I tried tightening it even more to make sure it wouldn’t come loose.

With the teeth of the wrench barely gripping the edges of the bolt, I pushed downward, applying torque to the wrench. This force caused the wrench to slip off the bolt and my hand to slide across the blade, slicing through the first joint of my left index finger. It was a lesson I will never forget.  

After the accident and as I sat waiting to be escorted to the emergency room, I could see dad’s mower sitting on the lawn — idle with a full tank of gas, fresh oil, clean air filter and a newly sharpened blade. The two lawns never got mowed that day. My hard-learned lesson resulted in a four-hour visit to the hospital and eight stitches. If I had taken safety a little more seriously, this accident could have been avoided.

I recommend wearing a good pair of leather gloves when removing or installing lawnmower blades. Also, use the right tool when working on any piece of machinery and not some well-worn wrench that slips and doesn’t grip a bolt correctly. Then, of course, wear the appropriate eye and ear protection. And remember, never mow in shorts and sandals or flip-flops. Follow this advice and you’ll be ready to mow till your heart’s content.

  • 1 June 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10428
  • Comments: 0