RE: Another tragic case of not reading the manual

Subject: RE: Another tragic case of not reading the manual
From: MList -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 15:39:06 -0400

Daniel_Hall -at- trendmicro -dot- com [mailto:Daniel_Hall -at- trendmicro -dot- com] opined:

> You have to wonder
> what could be done to save someone willing to climb deep into
> a machine where the temperature was 167F minutes before. It's
> pretty much impossible to engineer all the danger out of any
> complex piece of machinery, since it's impossible to
> underestimate the intelligence of your dumbest user.
> Actually, for the stupid, even a screwdriver is dangerous.
> This is Darwin Award material.

And Kevin steps up to receive his award... One of my
college summer jobs was to work in an old pulp-and-paper
mill in my home-town. The equipment was decades outdated,
and required a lot of hands-on babysitting, just to
keep it working.

One task, always alloted to the new guys was to crawl in
under the dryers (huge conveyors that carried the fresh
pulp under heating elements) and use rakes to claw the
gunk and break up dams that would back up the flow and
cause stoppage. The temperature in the mill, especially
in summer, was well over 100-degrees F, all the time.
The temperature near the dryers was over 130-degrees.
The temperature UNDER the dryers, right up close, was
unbearable. WORKING -- and it was heavy, dirty physical
work, to lever half-hardened, heavy masses of wood-pulp
out of the guts of the machinery -- practically defies

Manual? Not that I ever saw, or heard of.
Safety signs? The equipment was so caked with decades
of dirt and hardened pulp, and corroded by the acids
that they use to MAKE wood-pulp, that nothing smaller
than 4-inch-high, half-inch-deep incised lettering
would have been... well, I was going to say "readable",
but I think "findable" is more appropriate.

We did what we were told/shown to do, as long as we
lasted. In fact, we did it eagerly, to be recognized
as a willing go-getter, worthy of keeping on for some
more (paying) shifts.

Now, if you want scary, I'll recount one of my brother's
stories of working in the mines as impromptu assistant
to the blaster's assistant... when the blaster himself
(the nominally qualified guy) had not been around for
months. As I recall, manuals and safety signage didn't
enter into that situation either. You do what you have
to do, to keep the job, when:

a) other people have been doing it (and at least the
ones you get to see are relatively intact)

b) you are told to do it

c) you don't know any better.


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