Greg Plitt Teaching Moment

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The death of Greg Plitt was incredibly tragic … and stupid,  but its an opportunity for a teaching moment about safety and “accidents”.  Nobody is invincible, no matter how strong they think they are and how naturally athletic they are.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is a Darwin Awards candidate.

In shop class in high school I had some really good shop teachers. I learned that there are really very few accidents. An accident is being hit by a meteorite, it really sucks, and there is nothing you can do about it. Most “accidents” are preventable which means to me that they are not really accidents, just stupidity.    To stay alive and keep all fingers attached, you constantly have to ask yourself – “what if …“. All the time I use heavy power tools and asking that “what would happen if …” question constantly is the only way to keep your fingers, arms, and legs attached.

For example, when using a saw like this with a foot long, exposed, reciprocating blade every second I have to ask myself the following questions:

  • what happens if it throws wood up into my face? WEAR EYE PROTECTION!
  • what happens if the blade jams? Will I be yanked off the ladder and fall 20 feet and break my neck? If so, GET IN A MORE STABLE POSITION!
  • what happens when the blade cuts thru the wood? Will it saw my leg off? MAKE SURE NO BODY PARTS ARE IN THE BLADE PATH!

I have used band saws, table saws, circular saws, welders, planers, routers, milling machines, and lathes constantly for the last 40 years.  Each of these high powered devices could easily mame or kill me … but they havent, knock on wood, because I am always THINKING about what I am doing and things that might happen.

If you are always thinking “what might go wrong and how can I prevent it from hurting me?” then you wont have “accidents”. I have never done stunt work nor have I ever been on set in Hollywood but I can pretty much guarantee you that this train “accident” like this would have never happened with professionals doing the work. Even in a very simple stunt like this, my guess is that they would take safety precautions.  For example, a gymnastics style harness on the stunt person so that should something go wrong, they could be yanked out of the way of the train.

Safety is a mindset.  If you train yourself to constantly thinking what might happen next then you wont have “accidents”.  Every second of every day, be thinking about this!  You are at a red right waiting with a big truck in the lane left of you blocking your view, the light turns green, you punch the gas and lurch out into the intersection. OH SH*T!  Someone is running the red light at 50mph and you are dead.  It wasn’t your fault but you are dead just the same.  Was it an accident?  Nope, it was stupid gambling and you just lost because it could have easily been prevented.  We all know that idiots run red lights so if you cant see oncoming traffic DONT GO because you are gambling with your life – use that truck as a shield till you get thru the intersection.

The death of Greg Plitt was tragic.  Maybe we can make it just a tiny bit less tragic if it serves to get people thinking a little bit more about safety and accident prevention to keep others from meeting a similar fate.  Nobody is invincible. 99% of “Accidents” are preventable if you constantly have a safety mindset.

 Always be asking yourself,  “what might go wrong and how can I prevent it from hurting me?”