Apr 22, 2009

Near fatal accident

2004, Amona Bunder, Goa.

It's a high traffic jetty with each weigh bridge weighing close to 1000 trucks per day during peak season. The salt in the moisture laden air corrodes steel real fast. The manganese dust accelerates the corrosion process. Steel structures need lot of maintenance work. Shabir and I with Shashi's gang of welders and fabricators were working on weigh bridge maintenance. The gang - Shashi the leader, Gopala the next-in-line, Bhaktha the expert welder, Nataraja the all-rounder and... I cannot recall few names.

For the day, we had work on two weigh bridges, about 40 meters away. Done with one, we wanted to move the portable generator to the other weigh bridge. The dirt path slopes down and then slopes up. The generator is heavy duty type weighing close to 1500kg, mounted on four heavy duty tires, like the grooved tires tractors have on the front wheels. Bhakta took the steering-end and the rest of us were at the other end. We thought we should pick up speed going down slope to build up momentum so that we need not struggle going up the slope. As we picked speed, Bhakta was in high spirits and running backwards with the steering cum tow lever in his hands. None of noticed the tarpaulin sheet until Bhakta tripped, falling backwards. The genset mowed him down. The immediate thought that came to my mind was that we are going to be in deep trouble.

But what happened was... as the genset mowed him down sending him between the front wheels, under the front axle. I heard his scream.... aaayyyooo ayyayyo ayyyyayyo!!! Within no time the rear axle passed over him and he was stuck with. The remaining of us pulled it back to slow it down and it stopped. Bhakta was still screaming. I could see the mixed feeling of surprise, fear and happiness in his eyes... to see himself alive. He was still under the genset and all of us looking at him in shock. He crawled out pretty fast... as though the genset might start moving again. He was injured on the forehead, one of the shoulders, arms, knees and back but he was moving by himself and talking... that was a big relief.

Few other workers had gathered around us. Before anybody could kick up trouble, I asked Bhakta to get into the Bolero with two more guys and took him out of the factory premises. I picked up few bottles of mineral water, Dettol, cotton rolls and plaster. We drove away towards the hills and stopped at a lonely spot. Asked him to take off his t-shirt and checked him for injuries. The forehead and knee were the bad ones. We cleaned him with water. Then cleaned his wounds with mineral water and Dettol and covered them with cotton and plaster. First Aid done. We took him to a doctor who checked the wounds, gave a anti-tetanus shot and prescribed some pain-killers. He appreciated my first aid skill.

Bhakta was on rest for a week. I banned him from coming to work place too. Next day we took him to a mines specialist doctor who certified he was out of any danger and prescribed some antibiotics to prevent infection to the wounds.

The moment Bhakta tripped, I thought one of the wheels would run him over. It's just plain luck he went exactly in the middle. Later I was studying the tires and trying to imagine what they could do to a 40kg man. If it ran over the stomach, the man could be cut into two. Let me not imagine anything more.

The mistake we did was taking the genset in forward. We should have taken in the reverse direction. That way nobody would be in the way of the genset. I believed and practiced safe work methods but that day I was not alert. I understood the importance of being alert at all times. Every second counts.


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