A partially blind and developmentally disabled man was qualified to use the paper shredder that mauled his right hand earlier this month, said an official with the nonprofit company that runs the Harmans, Md., plant.

"This was not about his disability," said Ray Jordan, executive director of Athelas Institute, Inc. "It was just a terrible accident."

Based in Columbia, Md., Athelas is a state-licensed provider of services to more than 300 people with developmental disabilities living in Howard and Baltimore counties.

Twenty-three-year-old Dan Parks spent a half-hour with his hand stuck in the shredder before being flown to the Curtis Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. His hand was so mutilated that it couldn't be repaired or reattached, county firefighters said.

Jordan said Parks, who had worked at the paper recycling plant since June 2004, thought the shredder had a paper jam. Parks got his hand stuck when he tried to dislodge the jam. "He'd been trained not to do that," Jordan said.

That training entailed "several hours" of "practical" instruction, mostly involving demonstrations. In one training scenario, a glove stuffed with a carrot was put into the shredder to show how dangerous the equipment can be, Jordan said.

"Sometimes people just do what they aren't supposed to do," Jordan added.

And while fire officials described Parks as "blind," Jordan said Parks was "visually impaired" and could see to some extent.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Office of Health Care Quality are investigating how Parks' hand got stuck in the machine. Athelas has never been cited for workplace safety problems, according to MOSH.