Learn from My Mistakes…shares "Recovering Idiot" safety manual author

By Ben Casper…

In this post I’m going to focus on the latest little incident I just experienced that once again beat the odds and left me still among the living.

To the uninitiated, my name is Ben. After spending most of my waking hours over the last decade drying corn and working in grain bins, maybe I should just start signing my name as “Bin.”

Every year, I dry 6000 tons of corn with propane, my fuel of choice. Clean, and packed with Btu's, it never disappoints.

Before becoming a “Bin” guy, for 20 years I owned and operated a propane business called Basin Propane, along with a tire store. After liquidating those businesses, I’ve devoted most of my waking hours to inventing propane tools and working in grain storage containers — corn bins, to be exact.

Whenever I get bored in the bins, I read my BPN magazine or invent stuff like the YankATank.

I have also dabbled in the safety consulting business, actively providing numerous and excellent examples so others can learn from my vast pool of experience. While most experts just sit in an office and talk about safety, I get out there and actively demonstrate. Every day. You know…the proper and safe way to do things, and also the improper and death-defying way.

This is the main reason why I figured I should get out of the gas business — no more propane except for the corn dryer.

My safety company is unique in that it regularly features and actually produces high levels of adrenaline, blood pressure through the roof, a pretty amazing tolerance for pain, hundreds of X-rays, countless scars, 27 broken bones, two missing fingers, some verifiable brain damage, and almost no fear whatsoever of any job that might come down the pike.

Since this is probably the first time you have received any instruction from my company, I’m going to offer this introductory safety seminar at no charge.

In today’s world, people want instantaneous information, so here is my latest instantaneous safety tip:


On the particular morning that the sample event occurred (which was just yesterday, to be truthful), I will provide instruction concerning:

a) Heights

b) Fast-moving power tools

c) First-aid kits
Incident Report from Ben’s Safety Company Files
Subject went to the top of a corn bin with articulated man lift to begin disassembling and moving said bin, starting with the roof. Subject had a screaming-wild and lightning-fast grinding tool complete with a six-inch disc. Subject deemed it necessary to cut off some bolt heads in order to gain access through the roof.

(I’m sorry. I’ve got to switch back to a first-person accounting since I am not all that comfortable being a subject.)

Some people call the tool a “skinny wheel” because it slices through metal (and flesh) like a hot knife slices through butter. I call it a “slicer.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a hand-held machine that should not be used by people (like me) who are three or four gallons short of a full tank.

My slicer and I were zipping through the bolt heads on the bin roof a good 24 feet in the air when I once again forgot a lesson I have learned and relearned at least four times in the last six years. Each of these lessons cost me unforeseen, unplanned, and unbudgeted pain, doctor bills, and downtime.

Your lesson today is to hold on to the slicer with two hands. I cannot stress this point enough! Nor can I deny it is one of those lessons of life easily forgotten by people like me who are just too darned busy to take a deep breath and consider the possible outcome.

This tendency (that is implanted deeply in each of my genes) is at the heart of many safety problems that rear their ugly heads for myself and others. This tendency keeps doctors rich, ambulance-chasers on the loose, and hook-makers (for newly-stubbied forearms) in business.

Because I was hovering twenty-some feet up in the air, partially in the man lift and partially on the tin roof, I used just one hand to operate the slicer while the other hand (minus two fingers — another story for another day. Page 512 in my safety manual) was locked in a death grip to the man-lift basket.

You know you just can’t be too careful. I say that all the time…or at least I should.

Little did I know that in the next few seconds I was going to come within an inch of bleeding out with a severed femoral artery.

The slicer didn’t like the way I was holding it (one-handed) so it decided to set itself free and go on it’s own merry way. The metal-destroying, spinning-at-10,000-rpm disc took off from the bolt head being cut and made it’s way in a straight and impressive manner quickly across the bin roof.

I no longer had control of the screaming, flesh-eating machine as it did a little skimming action across my Levi’s in the left-hand lane, or I should say, the left-leg lane. Immediately the navy blue material turned blood red. I found out once again that it doesn’t take much time at all for my slicer to cover a lot of territory and to find some fresh meat after being released from two-handed control.

I refused to release my grip on the man lift but was happy to let go of the slicer. Luckily, the blood wasn’t spurting. I’ve had spurts before, and I can tell you without question they freak you out.

I found out later that this particular “slice” was just over the femoral artery. If it had been a bit deeper, there’s a good chance my bloody fuel gauge would have read empty by the time I made it to the ground floor via the man lift. Five or six minutes is all it takes for a femoral artery to completely bleed out.

I thought about jumping to get down faster, but to avoid a major hospital stay I steered away from the jump idea and transitioned my still-intact spirit and body to the ground via the man lift. I then hobbled toward my pickup.

A stranger had just pulled into the yard and actually heard my weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth during the incident while I was still up on top of the bin. When we crossed paths at ground level, he asked me if he should get his first-aid kit from his truck. I thought it might be a good idea, since I had seen a little blood and knew I didn’t have a kit in mine. I don’t know who he was, but I’ll call the Good Samaritan, uh…Sam.

Sam brought his kit, I dropped my pants, and we both gazed in horror. Then we saw the injury.

I looked at the injury and knew what must be done since I’ve done it plenty of times before. Sam looked at the injury and said, “I don’t do well with stuff like this.”

I told him to look away and grabbed some gauze out of the kit and placed it over the substantial “scratch.” I then told him that he had to hang on and stay conscious—he was looking more like a patient than I was. I gave him instructions about wrapping some tape around the gauze and leg since I’m kind of an expert from way back.

He was able to complete his duties before passing out. I thanked him, and quickly hobbled across the lot. I’m not sure Sam heard my appreciation and I didn’t have the time to look back to see if he was still upright or down for the count.

My son Mike just happened to be hanging around this very location, so I hitched a ride with him to the hospital. I told him not to rush as I wanted to have enough time to post pictures on Facebook. It worked perfectly, as I had 12 comments and 23 “likes” by the time we arrived at the medical facility. I couldn’t have asked for anything more at that point.

During our transport, I changed our destination from Lourdes Hospital to Lourdes Urgent Care clinic. This astute decision on my part netted a reduction in my bill of several thousand dollars before even arriving. We parked and I hobbled toward the impressive and expensive-looking medical facility.

However, we were not welcomed with open arms. All the doors were locked and the names of the offices were labeled with long medical terms that I couldn’t pronounce even on a good day, without any bleeding. Finally, I desperately banged on one of the doors and told the lady who appeared that I needed help. She said, “This isn’t Urgent Care. You need to go out the double doors and it’s straight ahead.”

I instantly determined that this lady was trying to prank us. We had just come through those double doors.

I love pranks. However, they can be deadly if not properly planned and performed by a professional. I consider myself to be one of the best. David Day, the big wheel at American Standard Manufacturing out of New York that manufactures propane equipment, will verify that I am an expert and he is a mere novice (pages 385-387 in my safety manual).

About the time I was trying to figure out if the lady was pranking me, Mike looked through the outside doors and saw another building across the parking lot, just in front of where our car was parked. The building was labeled with a huge sign declaring URGENT CARE.

We went in and the doctor had me stitched up in a quick hour. The nurse checked my normally sky-high blood pressure and it was a low 110/70, even with all the needles they were sticking in me. I haven’t had a BP that low since I shadowboxed in the flyweight division. I’ve been fighting my weight and blood pressure in the heavyweight class for 30 years now and was shocked to hear the low numbers.

The clinic’s blood pressure machine was great and the personnel very pleasant. However, soon I understood why they charged so much less than the hospital.

After leaving Urgent Care, I went to Walmart to get some antibiotics. As I walked toward the pharmacy, I felt the wrap and bandage that had just been installed on my thigh slide down to my ankle. Do you have any idea how hard it is for a fat old guy to bend over and pull his thigh bandage back up from his ankle while not bending his leg for fear of ripping out the stitches?

But then again, I guess you see that sort of thing at Walmart all the time.

The doctor had said I was not to go back to work under any circumstances. After he left, the nurse told me to keep it elevated.

Mike drove me back to my work site. Following the nurse’s instructions, I crawled up on the man-lift while trying to keep my stitches from stretching and ascended the 24 feet back up to the top of the bin. I felt pretty good that I had a machine that was able to help me follow the nurse’s instructions to keep my leg elevated. And, since I was already up there, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to cut off a few more bolt heads.

For the rest of the afternoon, I cut bolts…with two hands on the slicer.

To be honest, my safety company is actually just me trying to make it through another day without getting an immediate detour to the morgue. About the only usable safety product I have ever generated is a 523-page safety manual titled “Recovering Idiot,” available on Amazon.com (remember Amazone Smile that supports the National Propane Gas Foundation scholarship program).

Ben Casper is the inventor of the YankATank and author of the safety manual “Recovering Idiot.”