In the early 1990s, I worked for Hammond Power Solutions on Southgate Drive. It was a fun place to work and I made a lot of friends with people in the plant as well as with the office staff and managers.
Apart from my job as a transformer coil winder, I was a shop steward and a member of the health and safety committee.
The company had recently introduced a rule requiring everyone on the shop floor to wear safety glasses. It is a standard policy in most manufacturing facilities today, but back then it was met with some resistance. People argued the glasses were uncomfortable and unflattering and that wearing them all the time, even when they weren’t brazing or doing some other potentially eye-threatening activity, was unnecessary. They had worked in the plant for years without injuring their eyes, so why should they have to start wearing glasses now?
I wasn’t a big fan of the new rule either but, as a committee member, I was obligated to help implement the policy.
The health and safety manager took his job very seriously and was always looking for ways to make the workplace safer.
He called a meeting with all the employees to address their concerns and shared a story about a personal experience he had regarding eye safety.
He told us that he wore safety glasses whenever he did yard work around his home and that he had taken a lot of ribbing from his neighbour because of it.
One day, he was mowing his lawn and, sure enough, his neighbour started making fun of his glasses. He tried to ignore him and carried on mowing the lawn until he heard his neighbour groan in agony. The blade from the lawnmower struck a stone, shattering it and sending shards in all directions. One of the fragments hit his neighbour directly in the eye and nearly blinded him.
The manager told the story with grave seriousness, but something about it hit me as funny.
Perhaps it was the irony and the inappropriateness of laughing at his neighbour’s misfortune during a serious company meeting, but I got giggling and couldn’t stop myself. The more I tried to suppress the laughter, the stronger it came bubbling to the surface.
He finally asked me if I found something funny about the story.
“No,” I responded, summoning every bit of will power I could to stop laughing.
It wasn’t the first or only time my demented sense of humour got me in trouble, but it is the first time it came back to bite me years later.
I have a large hedge separating my yard from my neighbours’ on both sides. Twice a year I rent an industrial hedge trimmer to cut it back. It is a dirty, sweaty job and it is also dangerous.
I have never worn safety glasses while cutting the hedge, but this year I decided I would. However, when I couldn’t find a pair in my house, after a short search, I carried on without them. After all, I never got injured trimming the hedge before.
I’m sure you can deduce where this storyline is headed.
Within minutes a rogue piece of shrub shrapnel hit me directly in the white of my right eye, cutting it so bad it bled.
The pain was excruciating and I feared I might have caused permanent damage. Luckily I didn’t, but I did manage to find a pair of glasses after that.
Most of my friends laughed when I told them the story and asked why I wasn’t wearing safety glasses.
I suppose accepting their ridicule is part of some karma long overdue.
But I am embarrassed to admit it took 20 years and the threat of losing an eye to learn that valuable lesson.