My friend Klaus Keller, a young German mine mechanic, was a big man who liked to drink beer. I never tried to keep up with Klaus but enjoyed listening to his drinking stories. He was always checking his requisitions for shovel spare parts, and he did excellent follow-up and planning for his shovel repair and overhauls. Klaus was your typical German professional, exacting in every detail, a professional maintenance man.
One evening Klaus had already drank a six pack of Aguila beer when he was called out by the maintenance supervisor about a mining shovel. The supervisor wanted him to take a look at the shovel that was having hydraulic problems. He drove to the site where the shovel was digging and parked his pickup with the lights on to the side of the working shovel, exactly as the safety procedures instructed for parking light duty vehicles near operating mine shovels and haul trucks. Nature intervened and Klaus had to urinate. He walked behind the shovel off to the side, in the dark, and took a piss where no one saw him.
The safety report read that the shovel operator swung the loaded bucket around right over Klaus and dumped about fifty tons of overburden on him. No one knew where Klaus had gone, and he was not found until the next morning.
How many fatal accidents are caused by overconfidence when working around heavy equipment? How many times have supervisors reminded the workers of overconfidence? How many supervisors themselves have been killed on the job due to overconfidence? These questions remain unanswered by mine safety supervisors as well as the workers.
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