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Fluid Power Safety Alerts


(Ref. No. SA-017)

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Description of the accident:

Early Wednesday morning, December 13, 1995, Javier, a 23-year old migrant worker from Mexico, woke up, jumped out of bed, and followed his usual routine before leaving for work. While getting ready, his wife Norma, prepared breakfast for him and their three month old daughter, Christina.

After breakfast, he stood up from the table, and lifted little Christina out of her high-chair. He raised her into the air high above his head, and lowered her suddenly toward him. She giggled, as if to say "more." He did it repeatedly, and she giggled even more. He passed her to Norma, and then gave them both a hug. This was his way of bidding them farewell each morning before he left for work.

Norma recalls, upon his reaching the door, Javier turned around and smiled at them. He was still smiling, as he closed the door of their trailer-home behind him. He climbed into his car and drove to work.

Little did Javier know that morning when he left for work, that he would never lift Christina out of her high-chair again. There would be no more tossing her in the air . . . no more hugs. He would never be able to caress his lovely young wife again, he would never drive a vehicle again . . . never!

Javier's 3-month old daughter at the time of the accident.

Javier's 3-month old daughter Christina
at the time of his accident.
Bolt on rotating auger shaft causes major bodily damage.
Javier and his uncle worked together on a farm. The previous day, Javier and his uncle had started digging holes in the ground to erect fence posts. To dig the holes, they used an auger (post-hole digger) attachment, which was attached to the back of a tractor.

A steel drive-shaft connects the drive mechanism on the tractor to the auger. When the tractor engine is running, it rotates the drive-shaft which causes the auger to rotate. The auger has enough power to cut through the hard, dry ground with ease- the rotating, steel drive-shaft lay exposed and unprotected!

Javier and his uncle were working nearby the rotating auger. Somehow, Javier inadvertently brushed against the rotating shaft. A small bolt protruding from a threaded port in the shaft, snagged the opening in the pocket of his jeans- life as Javier and his loved ones knew it, ended that moment! Javier struggled for a moment, but it was useless. The powerful shaft hung onto his jeans, and rolled him around as if he were a rag-doll. His uncle watched in horror as the machine tore one arm off, and then another, ripping them out of their shoulder sockets and tossing them aside.

At the same time, it twisted and snapped his legs like dry twigs, leaving the bones protruding from his mutilated skin. It left him laying crumpled on the ground, agonized and dazed.

A meager bolt protruding from a steel shaft, had reduced this strong, proud, hard-working, young man, to a whimpering, lifeless, torso in a few seconds- in less time than it took to turn the engine off and stop the auger.

Dumbfounded and dazed, Javier's uncle raced to Javier's trailer-home to tell Norma what had transpired. He explained to her that Javier had "hurt" his hands. He and Norma raced back to the scene of the accident. Norma was horrified when she discovered that his hands were "hurt" in a way she could never have imagined.

What she saw was frightful. Javier lay on the ground whimpering and horribly broken. A few feet away from him, in one direction, lay his left arm. A few feet in the opposite direction lay his right arm. He was bleeding profusely.

Help was summoned, and Javier was airlifted to a hospital. At the hospital, it was determined that, due to the extent of the injuries to his legs, his left leg would have to be amputated above the knee- the "machine" had claimed yet another one of his limbs!

His injuries, and the trauma to his body were so severe, that his doctors advised the family that his chances of survival were slim to none. They had done all that was medically possible to save him. It was now up to him, and the Lord above to decide his fate. His body was so badly maimed and mutilated, that many people questioned the ethics of keeping him alive.

For days, with Norma, Christina, father and mother, and family at his bedside, he clung to life, drifting in and out of a coma, heavily sedated.

Prayers poured in for him. Friends and strangers stopped by the hospital to wish him and his family well. With the help of God, and his sheer will to live, Javier slowly recovered.

Today, he is considered a "medical miracle"- just eight months after his devastating accident, with the aid of a prosthetic leg, Javier can walk around. With the aid of a prosthetic arm he is able to feed himself.

Although Javier will never physically be able to hold Norma and Christina, he makes up for it with kisses.

Javier, his brothers, and Rory McLaren.

Javier celebrates his 24th birthday in the hospital
with his brothers and Rory McLaren.

Accident analysis . . . from a different perspective!:

It is a well known fact that unprotected shafts are a major safety hazard. However, we cannot comment on the factors which led up to, and caused Javier's insufferable accident.

We wanted to tell Javier's story to give you an idea of the magnitude of the sadness and grief an accident brings to family, loved ones, and entire communities. Sadly, this, like all accidents, could have been prevented.

We spent much time with his family, while Javier was struggling for his life, and witnessed first-hand the tragedy and grief they all suffered. Each of his loved ones seemed to endure their grief differently- a wife for her husband, a father for his son, a mother for her son, brothers for their brother, and a mother and father in-law for their son-in-law. They all died a little during the ordeal.

In addition to the immense grief, Javier's hospital bills were expected to reach well over $600,000.00. He had no medical insurance, and although suffering the accident at work, he was not covered by workers compensation.

Regardless of the circumstances which led up to, and caused this human tragedy, let's not allow Javier, Norma, Christina, and their loving family, to have suffered through this needlessly. There is a valuable lesson here for us all. Accidents, regardless of their cause, have far reaching and devastating consequences. One accident can break many, many hearts!

If we ever consciously decide not to lockout a machine, not to wear our safety glasses, not to wear our seat-belts while driving, not to practice any aspect of safety whatsoever, before doing so, let's pause for a moment and close our eyes- let's take a walk in Javier's shoes.

Imagine . . . eating a meal . . . using a toothpick after a meal . . . getting up in the night to use the bathroom . . . giving our daughter, son, wife or husband a hug . . . playing games with our children . . . taking a drive in the car . . . and the many other things we enjoy doing. Is it worth it? Absolutely not! When we practice safety, it's not just for us, it's also so our loved ones can enjoy us.

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The accidents we report are real, and the victims are real. The safety guidelines we provide are to help companies and individuals work safely with hydraulics. All guidelines we provide are general, and are not intended for one specific hydraulic system or machine.

WHEN YOU PURCHASE HYDRAULIC-POWERED MACHINERY AND/OR EQUIPMENT, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT ONCE YOU DETERMINE THAT IT CAN DO THE WORK YOU WANT IT TO DO, YOU THEN DETERMINE HOW MUCH SAFETY HAS BEEN BUILT INTO IT BY THE MANUFACTURER. IN ADDITION, WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU, WITH THE INPUT FROM YOUR OPERATORS, MECHANICS, ENGINEERS, PRODUCTION PERSONNEL, AND SAFETY DEPARTMENT, FORMULATE A LIST OF MINIMUM SAFETY STANDARDS FOR THE EQUIPMENT YOU PURCHASE. ALTHOUGH WE LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT MOST MANUFACTURERS ARE CONCEREND ABOUT SAFETY, SOME BELIEVE THAT CERTAIN SAFETY MEASURES ARE AN UNNECESSARY EXPENSE. WE FURTHER RECOMMEND THAT ALL THE SAFETY STANDARDS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT YOU DEVELOP SHOULD BE REVIEWED BY YOUR SAFETY DEPARTMENT, ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT, AND BY THE RESPECTIVE MACHINE OR EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURER PRIOR TO MAKING THEM POLICY - TOTAL SAFETY CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED WITH A TEAM EFFORT.

CAUTION!
The Fluid Power Safety Institute™ does everything possible to insure that the information and drawings contained in these documents is accurate, and the procedures are deemed safe and reliable. However, these are general recommendations only and might not be applicable to all situations.

You MUST have your engineering department and service department read these recommendations and make the necessary changes for your specific application.

The Fluid Power Safety Institute™ is not responsible for actions taken by untrained and/or unauthorized persons. ALL hydraulic system service, repair, and troubleshooting should be done by trained, authorized persons ONLY.


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