Adventures in Drywall
Warning: Proceed Reading at Your Own Risk!
Recently, while filling some free time by reading the side of a mud bucket, we were shocked to find that an empty 5-gallon joint compound bucket is not a safe place for small children to play. In fact, if one of these mini-finishers would happen to fall into a bucket headfirst and there happened to be water on the bottom, there's a good chance he could drown!
As fathers, we understand the gravity of a child's safety, yet we have to wonder when it became imperative that we be warned of such an impending danger. Were there, in fact, legions of people out there with their yards filled with overturned empty buckets? Was this, in fact, a tragedy in the making?
Safe as milkIt would be impossible for any one of us to make it through one single day without being reminded how dangerous it is to be on this planet. The Sunday morning ritual of mowing the lawn could become dangerous business if we forgot to read the obligatory sticker on the mower deck. You know the one. "Do Not Place Fingers or Toes Under Mower Deck." Duh. This must have been an entertaining trial. Can you imagine the brain trust of the jury who decided we were all too stupid to figure this out on our own? Their decision would forever alter the way cutting the grass was viewed. Yet, they seemed to be as ignorant of the obvious as the plaintiff.
Running a close second to the mower debacle is the ladder warning. Frankly, we find it amazing that ladders can still be used. We doubt there is 1 square inch of ladder surface that is not covered with one type of warning or another. "Caution: Ladder May Tip Without Warning." "Don't Go Above This Step; You May Lose Your Balance and Fall." Duh! And Duh! We wonder how long it will be before you will have to be licensed to use one. The logical question to follow is: Will ladders one day have to be registered as a potentially deadly weapon?
Recent headlines seem to prove that some need warnings for seemingly obvious dangers.
The first comes from a Pennsylvania newspaper. A construction worker in Lehighton accidentally lopped off his hand with a power saw. When questioned about the dozen or so 1-inch nails sticking from his scalp, upon being admitted to an area hospital, his answer was, "I couldn't stand the pain from the amputation." We are wondering, did he ignore the warning label on the nail gun that read, "This Is Not A Safe Analgesic In Case Of Amputation." We're certain the lawyers will make sure the manufacturer of the nail gun in question will be made to pay for its wanton disregard for public safety in not having the proper warning labels plastered all over the handle.
The next story is about a woman with a painful callus on her foot. It seems that after a night of heavy drinking, she decided she had enough. After an unsuccessful go at it with a razor blade, a 410-gauge shotgun was her next choice. When police later quizzed her in the hospital about her choice of apparatus in the removal of this callus she answered, "I was afraid it was becoming infected." We are happy to report that her foot is healing nicely. Questions about her brain, however, are not being considered at this time.
We wouldn't know where to start on the type of warning labels that would have been needed to cover all the issues raised by this story. Would razors need to have been labeled, "This Product Is Not Safe To Use In The Treatment Of Foot Infection"? Would gun manufacturers have to label shotguns with their recommendation on the gauge appropriate for specific uses? "It Is Recommended That 20-gauge Shotguns Be Used For Appendages Larger Than A Pinkie"? Where would you start in the labeling of alcohol? "Warning: The Overuse Of Alcohol May Impair Your Judgment In Your Choice Of Firearm"?
Fire when readyIn a related story, while there is a gun involved, strangely enough the victim was sober. The story begins with a trip to visit his mother-in-law. This mental giant chose a .25-caliber pistol to use as a hammer while installing some trim in her house. As you may have already guessed, the gun went off, shooting him in the hand and his wife in the abdomen. We are happy to report that he and his wife are fine (at least physically). We wonder, would a warning stamped on the butt of this gun which read: "Caution, This Is Not A Nail Gun," have kept these two from harm's way?
It's hard to view the future with optimism. How much will this trend of needing to be protected from ourselves shape our lives in the future? How long will it be till sheets of drywall carry bold red letters alerting users of the ensuing back pain that long-term use will likely cause? Will drywall hatchets be required to wear a well-placed label warning potential users that "This Tool May Be Considered A Deadly Weapon When Improperly Used"? This should not be a stretch for your imagination if you consider that ball bats are already considered a "deadly weapon" by courts of law in many cities.
If your job is in drywall (or any other avenue of construction), you are very aware of the risks. If you are not, here is a short list of the dangers that await you.
If you hang drywall, your back will eventually give out. If you are right-handed and you nail your drywall, the thumb and two forefingers on your left hand will be permanently callused and stained black from feeding nails into the wall. If you use a non-collated screw gun, you will have metal slivers permanently residing deep within those same fingers.
If your vocational choice was to be either a finisher or plasterer (there seems to be some controversy over who are the "real deal" lately on the W&C message board), you will be buying some sort of lotion in bulk for the rest of your life. Even with this balm, cracked fingers and sandpaper hands will be your constant companion. Nosebleeds in the shower after a marathon day of sanding are also commonplace. If you use an auto-taper, you will develop a common ailment fondly referred to as "bazooka shoulder." This usually occurs instantly after you run your first million feet of joint tape through one. It seems to be one of those rites of passage we all want to achieve, but once we get it, want to give it back.
And now we get to Kevin's favorite. The midnight hand bang. This is usually done against the bedroom wall, after being awakened at 3 a.m. with throbbing fingers. Any surface will do at this point. Anything to try and get blood circulating back into numb and aching fingers. This is a by-product of 20-plus years of dragging a blade over drywall. Arthritic joints in fingers from plunging hands into freezing buckets of water to wash tools is something shared by all who call themselves finishers. This is just a small example of the ills that plague each and every one of the readers of this article. We salute those out there willing to do their specific jobs in spite of the physical risks.
Every job has a risk attached. The news recently made us aware that even typing on a keyboard every day can result in the same type of aches and pains some of us suffer. The real question is: Are we safe from ourselves? After all, life ... for some of us, it's just that. For others, it's a lawsuit in the making.