If you want to take a break from the politically correct way we talk about attitudes and behaviors visit the web site www.darwinawards.com. Here you'll find tales of aberrant, careless, stupid, reckless, arrogant, bizarre and often-fatal behavior. Plenty of fodder for your safety newsletters, bulletin boards or meetings - don't try these tricks at work or at home.
But be forewarned: this site points more fingers than Duke's student section at opponents on the foul line, ridiculing accident victims as fools, morons, idiots and "population control volunteers."
It's a site that scours the news for stories that live up to Ben Franklin's words: "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." Or as one site visitor put it: "The tree of life is self-pruning."
In this edition of ISHN's e-newsletter, we let the facts speak for themselves to learn lessons from absent-minded thinking. But here's the scary part: human nature being the universal condition it is, don't rush to judgment. It's not a stretch imagining yourself suffering such brain cramps. Well, except for maybe dancing with an ostrich, but more on that later...
PANIC ON THE SIXTH FLOORDon't try this at home: A 39-year-old man in Singapore hauls a leaking fuel tank from his motorbike up to his sixth-floor flat for welding repairs. After draining the gasoline into a pail in his toilet, he sets to solder the hole in the tank. He lights the propane torch, but gasoline that had spilled on his hand catches fire. Panicking, the man plunges his burning hand into the toilet, igniting the gas fumes from the pail. First the toilet explodes in a ball of fire. Then burning gas seeps down a floor drain and into the sewer system where it mixes with sewer fumes. A huge underground explosion rocks the neighborhood, blows one manhole cover to metal shards and sends neighbors fleeing for their lives. The man survives with but minor burns on his left hand, for which he refuses treatment.
To err is human... Panic routinely trumps common sense. Do your guys at work know what to do in a frantic moment?
SHORT CELEBRATIONFamous last words: Look at me! A Flying Officer of the RAF can't resist gunning his Vampire jet under the 250-foot high Clifton Suspension Bridge that spans the 700-foot wide Avon Gorge in England. He succeeds at 450 mph, defying all safety regulations. But his celebration is cut short when he and his jet disintegrate on the cliffs on the south side.
To err is human... Everyone showboats for the boys sometime or other. How do you handle horseplay during work hours?
GOOD INTENTIONS GONE WRONGEver get frustrated with yard work? A 47-year-old associate pastor at a church in Albany, Ga., wants to remove a tree behind his girlfriend's house. He borrows his father's pickup to yank the stump of the tree from the yard. He ties the truck to the tree and floors it. The tree topples over onto the truck, crushing the cab and trapping the man. The engine, still running, overheats and starts a grass fire, which ignites the truck's gas tank. The truck explodes into a fireball, burning the man beyond recognition. Police say he was probably dead before the truck caught fire.
To err is human... Especially when your intentions are good. Psychology professor Scott Geller promotes "actively caring" to create a culture of safety on the job, but set boundaries first.
FIRST THOUGHT, WORST THOUGHTEver forget that parking brake? A car parked by a reservoir near Fresno, Calif. begins to roll toward the water. The owner leaps in front of the car, trying to block it. But the man is no NFL lineman - the car pancakes him, pinning him beneath the water and drowning him.
To err is human... And reflex actions aren't always the smartest. Will your guys go too far to prevent property damage?
BEYOND REASONA Denver man decides to scale a ten-foot fence to find a dance partner at an ostrich farm. He tracks one down and begins slow dancing with the big bird. They get their feet tangled or something, because the bird starts to flap and peck at his partner. The man decides it's time to cut and run - but doesn't he know ostriches have a herd mentality? When one runs, they all run. The man decides to fall to the ground and play dead, and proceeds to get the stuffing nearly kicked out of him by the swift, strong legs of multiple ostriches. A 911 call by the farm's confounded owner rescues this hapless dancer from a fatal whupping, but he ends up hospitalized with multiple fractures.
To err is human... But to dance with an ostrich is something else entirely.
SIGN, WHAT SIGN?Forget about your lunch, ever lose sunglasses or a hat on a roller coaster ride? A middle-aged man in California loses his red ball cap on the Top Gun coaster at Great America and is bound and determined to retrieve it. Ignoring "Restricted Area" signs every 50 feet, the man climbs two fences to fetch the hat, which rests directly beneath the speeding coaster. He's struck in the neck by a passenger's foot, losing his hat and his head. The woman passenger, by the way, breaks her leg and sues for damages.
To err is human... And ignoring safety signs is a common human habit. What do you do to reinforce the message of your safety signage?
FLAMING MUMMYWhat are you going to be for Halloween? A Canadian man wrapped and taped head to toe in fluffy cotton gauze to pass as a mummy at a Halloween party waits in the kitchen for his girlfriend to dress. Killing time, he lights a cigarette and bursts into flames as his costume turns into a torch. His girlfriend rushes in and drags him out into the yard before calling the fire department. Horrified trick-or-treaters look on as the man's costume is reduced to ashes. Firefighters arrive to hear his last words, "It's my fault." Early the next morning the man dies of second- and third-degree burns.
To err is human... And to realize it afterward is, too. What do you do to get employees to accept responsibility for safety - before something goes wrong?
I'M A MANA Pennsylvania man playfully reaches into a snake tank belonging to his friend and is bitten by a cobra. The man refuses to go to a hospital, telling his buddy, "I'm a man, I can handle it." Instead of the emergency ward, he retires to a nearby watering hole, where after several rounds he regales customers with his tale of being bitten by a cobra. Little does he realize cobra venom is a slow-acting nervous system toxin. Within hours he dies.
To err is human... And to brag about injuries is, too. But get treated first.