Working for a Dumbass, or Sorry I Electrocuted Your Employee
There will be people who are bothered or even offended by the inclusion of the word “dumbass” in the title of this post. Those who are not aficionados of the Cluttered Desk in particular may be surprised by its use in such a prominent fashion. Those who are familiar with this blog, however, may rest more comfortably when they learn that this isn't a scathing commentary on some hapless moron who crossed my path on an intensely bad day. No, in this instance I am the actual dumbass to which the title refers. And my opinion is that we should not shun the phrase, but rather embrace it.
After all, we as an industry are somewhat dependent on the existence of dumbassery. Without it we would have nothing to do, or at the very least much less to do.
I recently wrote about a kitchen remodel we completed. As part of that remodel, we purchased all new appliances, and in the article, I discussed our new induction stove. What I did not mention was, of the four new appliances we purchased, dishwasher, stove, wall oven and refrigerator, we have had to have repair people out multiple times for 3 of them. Only the dishwasher has yet to give us any trouble. I don't want to mention the manufacturer, as that may cool relations between us while repairs are being performed. That would really cause some Frigidaire – I mean frigid air.
Whew, that was close.
Anywhoo, Thursday a technician was out to replace what was believed to be a defective element in our new induction countertop stove. He told me that we would need to kill the power to the stove before he disassembled it. Our old kitchen had a single range with stove top, and the new one has the countertop stove and a separate wall oven/microwave combo. We had to have some electrical work done to accommodate the addition of the wall oven, since separately they cannot run on the same breaker. The repair technician followed me to the garage, and I opened the subpanel with the breaker I intended to turn off. I pointed to the (new) breaker that said “Oven,”, flipped it off, and said, “Oven's off. You're good to go.”
Only a few minutes had passed, when the partially disassembled stove started beeping. I was familiar with the beep, as it is a warning that occurs if metal is touching the glass top without a burner being on. The technician and I both stood there, somewhat dumbfounded, not sure how it could be beeping when we had both clearly seen me turn the power to the unit off. Not to be dissuaded by such a seemingly trivial issue, the repair tech continued. In hindsight, perhaps the beeping was just another warning. A couple minutes later he jumped back and said, “Whoa! That thing is still hot. It got me pretty good.”
We both returned to pondering how that could possibly be. After all, I had clearly turned the oven breaker off. Had our electrician made an error in the wiring? Slowly, it began to dawn on me. I had turned off the oven breaker. But this wasn't the oven. It was the stove. It was on its own independent breaker, and the tech had been fumbling around with a hot 220-volt appliance.
Hence my designation as a dumbass.
Once the proper breaker had been turned off, the repair proceeded without issue (except it didn't work – he has to come back with another new part later. It is a ritual I am now all too familiar with).
Fortunately, the young man wasn't hurt. I sat there as he finished up, thinking about what this might have been like if he had been injured. I thought about the industry in which I work, and my position as someone who is relatively well known within that industry. I wondered how it would look with a dead repairman smoldering on my new kitchen floor. Later, I looked up the workers' compensation coverage for his employer and discovered that they are insured by one of my customers. A customer, by the way, that is headquartered in the town where I live.
Boy, this could have been awkward. I would have had some serious ‘splainin to do. This claim literally would have gone to the Next Level.
I imagined a claim where a young man was injured, my customer would pay the claim, and then I would be introduced to my customers subrogation division, when they went after me and my homeowner's insurance to cover their losses. All because I turned off the wrong breaker.
There would be no Christmas card exchange between us this year, I'm pretty sure.
Were there things the repair tech could have done to help prevent an issue? Certainly. He could have used a voltage detector in the somewhat likely event he finds himself in the home of a complete dumbass. I loaned him my voltage detector to check the power to the unit after we got the right breaker. If I worked on hard wired appliances, I think I would carry one all the time. He also could have said, “Hey dumbass, I'm not working on the oven!,” when I boldly announced the oven was off and he could proceed to work on the stove with abandon. They are minor points, but I would be ready to cram them down the throats of those pesky subrogation folks, I assure you. Desperate times call for desperate measures, don't you know.
So, if you are the owner of that repair shop, or the insurer who provides their coverage, I'm sorry I almost electrocuted your employee. It won't happen again. But if it does, remember that you need people like me. We dumbasses don't exactly make the world go round, but we can certainly bring it to a grinding and painful halt.
And that is where workers' comp really gets to do its thing. No need to thank me.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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