In chapter two of Staff blunders: Times when we didn't heed our own advice, we hear stories of mishaps from three employees who, because they work at Consumer Reports, really should have known better. Fortunately, they're still around to tell the tales. But we pledged to withhold their names to keep embarrassment to a minimum.
What goes up ...
While washing windows at my house, I set up an extension ladder in total disregard for one of our key safety rules:
"Extension ladder ladders should be set up with the base 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet the ladder reaches up—that's 3 feet at the base for a 12-foot ladder, or roughly a 75-degree angle. While it might seem easier to climb a ladder at a shallower angle, its feet are more likely to slide out from under you."
But heck, I’ve set the ladder up with lower angles before; certainly I could do it again. As bad luck would have it, the ladder did slide out from under me and I fell 12 feet onto the driveway. I spent the following six weeks with my arm in a cast, which served as a constant reminder of the mistake I made.
Before making the climb, this homeowner admits, he should have read our "Dos and don'ts of ladder safety."
She came, she sawed, she was conquered
I have been building things for years—I love it. I have used some power tools, but I wanted to learn how to use more, and since I don't have the space for my own shop, I took a class at a local cooperative school. On the last day of class, in the last hour of class, I was ripping a piece of wood with the table saw and a scrap. I ripped the piece but the scrap was caught and I did not want it to kick back. I used my left hand to try to flick the scrap away and my fingers got caught. I should have been smarter and been more careful. I did have my safety goggles on.
In the end, I broke two fingers and lost 4 nails. I missed work for nearly two weeks—and I still don't know if my nails will grow back. I am very lucky and I count my fingers every day. This was avoidable—never use a table saw if push sticks aren't available, and all classroom table saws should either have sawstop or be equipped and used with guards and anti-kickback devices.
For more on saw safety, read "Cutting edge protection for hands and fingers."
But can he bake a cherry pie?
One of our engineers told us that he received a call from his wife to clean the oven while she was out running errands. He relayed the orders to his son to start the oven's self-cleaning mode. The son followed the orders dutifully but didn’t check the oven to see whether anything was stored inside. A short while later, smoke began pouring from the oven and the kitchen glowed from the light of the plastic cutting board burning inside.
Our engineer tried to turn the oven off but discovered that once the self-cleaning mode had been started, it couldn’t be stopped. Quick thinking prevailed—he went to the circuit breaker box and shut off the power. The oven, however, remained locked and the cutting board continued burning. It took the local fire department to pull the range out of kitchen and put it the driveway for the fire to finally burn out. Even then, the door could not be opened until the oven had cooled down.
That's probably the last time our colleague will be asked to clean the oven. And it left us wondering why there’s no emergency override that would shut down the self-cleaning cycle.
After we had a good laugh, we were reminded that every home should have fire and carbon monoxide detectors properly installed throughout because you never know when a home improvement project may go awry.
While the oven story is a good cautionary tale, one has to wonder what was a plastic cutting board doing in an oven in the first place? I am pretty sure that it goes without saying that you should not be putting plastic into an oven, especially a cutting board (really curious why you need a cutting board in the oven at all!).
Oh, you KNOW that kitchen just REEKED of plastic for the longest time after that happened. All I can do is chuckle, and not derisively - if anything, I've done dumber stuff than this at home! :)