OK, fair warning, this story is about installing laminate flooring and what can happen when you take all the necessary safety precaution with exception to using the proper tool.
That torn thumb should give you a clear indication of what this story is about. I was installing laminate flooring in a rental location. It came to the hallway where there were multiple doors. The solution I use to cut out the door jambs is one I’ve used many times. Its called undercutting the door jambs. Now, this involves a high velocity spinning blade in rather close proximity to other body parts. This was all before the days of oscillating tools that were available in our area. What was available in our area was a 4 inch diameter carbide tipped saw blade that could be attached to a hand held grinder. Grinders are inherently dangerous tools all by themselves. Years ago I learned a lesson with the very tool in my hands today that lead me to have a very healthy respect for this tool.
Now, the only problem is the 4 inch blade is recommended for tools that spin much less than that of a grinder. But, I figured that a tool that spins at very high RPM (grinder) is just as dangerous as a tool that spins at half that speed. That’s a grey area that can easily lead to further discussion.
So here’s what I was doing.
I’ve laid thousands of square feet of laminate and hardwood flooring over the years. The only difference with this product was that it installed a little different and was about twice as thick as the cheapo laminate flooring.
The scene of the accident. You can clearly see the blade used, guard was in place and even the gloves I was using (brand new they were) had good grip.
What happened next was so quick, the grinder jerk out of position and all I felt was a numbing sensation on my right thumb. Now just look at the handle grips on the grinder above. My left hand was on the stabilizing arm so that meant my right hand was on the body handle AND that meant my right thumb was wrapped around handle of the grinder body where the trigger is, about as far away ergonomically as a person could be from the blade. Yet that’s the body part that got cut. In hindsight, lucky it was only that. As I was kneeling on the floor, thighs in plain sight.
Back to that numbing sensation. I sat there for about 3 seconds, kneeling on the floor and realized I’d better look at my thumb which was now surrounded by my left palm. Open my palm… yup, better go to the hospital. I jump in the truck and make my way there. Called my wife and said to call the landlord, I cut my thumb, no pain but its cut good and deep. I’ll see you later.
Make it to the emergency room and wait in the lineup with other home owners and construction workers. Seems to be a theme today. So I get in and apparantly they’ve already called a surgeon who takes a look.
Notice I had the presence of mind to bring my camera to document the incident? 🙂 He sends me for x-rays.
Notice in the x-rays you can see where the blade cut almost through the top bone. Now I sit here learning to re-type. No surgery needed, just about 10 stitches. He did say that my nail bed will never grow back like normal.
Two days later.
Update 2012: Boy, the surgeon was not kidding about the thumb nail. Always careful with it, but it always splits just like you see here. It grows well, as quick as the other fingernails, but it never did grow back correctly.