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Darwin Awards
2002 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random

 
 
Laser Dim Bulb
2002 Personal Account

It should go without saying that some people positively should not be allowed to work with lasers. There are a lot of items found in machine shops that can be hazardous to your health. Industrial lasers are among the scariest. These lasers can burn a hole through inch-thick steel in seconds.

Unlike a sharp blade, or the flame of a welding torch, a laser beam can extend hundreds of feet, the beam undiminished in raw danger. And to add more excitement, these deadly laser beams are mostly completely invisible, unlike what you see in the movies.

People take precautions around industrial lasers.

Machines that use them are impossible to point at a human in their normal mountings. My coworker at a company that makes laser equipment was sent to a local factory to service one of our machines. He noticed they had just installed a competitor's laser machine. The machinist who met him in the lab had a left arm swathed in bandages.

The machinist explained how he had come to be injured.

When installing a laser, an aiming accuracy step consists of firing the laser at a plastic block. The laser will burn a hole through the block and, by assessing the shape of the hole, you determine how well the laser is focused.

This is usually done with a horizontal laser beam shot by the laser clamped horizontally across a block. But they had no blocks at hand, so the machinist was talked into holding up the block with his hand while the service technicians fired the (wobbly) laser.

What were they thinking?

The beam missed the block entirely and hit the machinist's hand, causing severe burns. You'd think people would be more careful with things like that.

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