Retrotechtacular: Shake Hands With Danger

OK, you’re going to have to engage your safety squints and sit back to enjoy this one: a classic bit of safety propaganda from US heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar from 1980 entitled “Shake Hands with Danger.”

Actually, you’ll probably need to engage your schlock filters for this 23-minute film too, as both the writing and the theme song are pretty hard to take. The film is one of those “Scared Straight” attempts to show just how horrifically wrong things can go both in the field and in the shop when working on anything made of stuff stronger than human flesh and bone. And in that regard, the film is highly effective — we found ourselves getting a bit queasy at a few points, with the poor dude who got his hand sucked into a bench grinder being both terrifying and relatable. [Three-Finger Joe] indeed.

Now, you might take exception with the acting, but as you watch all these vignettes, keep in mind that these are all old-school stunts — that’s actually a gigantic D9 bulldozer they crashed, and that brake chamber explosion really blew out that truck’s windows. They did a great job making the potential consequences of a moment’s thoughtlessness sickeningly vivid. Especially that arm-in-the-linkages scene. Ugh.

Whatever way you practice the hacking arts, stay safe out there. And don’t “Shake Hands with Danger.”

Thanks for the tip, [Paulie]!

42 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Shake Hands With Danger

      1. One of my duties in my engineering life is safety trainer/supervisor (I’v worked the industry from helper to engineer/manager, but unlike the others in the same place, I have a degree and can read, both helpful in this context). When we had an audit, one question was about our forklift training and cert program. The auditor: “And no, Klaus does not count as training:”

  1. This is actually a very good film. Watched the whole thing. The general lessons there are applicable no matter what you are working on.

    I had a friend who ended up with an arm crushed between two large HEATED steel rollers once because he thought he could reach in quickly and remove something stuck in the machine. His arm got drawn into the machine and cooked for 45 min before the mechanics could remove the rollers. Miraculously, he didn’t lose his arm, but it took years of therapy and skin grafts before he had limited use of his hand again.

    Stay safe out there.

  2. Industrial accidents always remind me of bad timing.

    Someone was cleaning the inside of a large stainless steel tanker from the inside, using nitric acid as is common. And as was typical at the time, out of sight from any oversight they would sneak in a smoke. And this worked for years with no problems, until one day they half finished the job and left the acid inside the tank overnight (slowly producing hydrogen gas), they went inside the following morning, and rest you can guess.

    1. I doubt this story, tbh. I can think of literally no conditions under which nitric acid would produce hydrogen gas. Depending on the concentration of the acid and the activity of the other reagent, it’s either nitrogen oxides or nitrogen (or ammonium nitrate, which stays in solution). At least that’s what I was taught.

      1. “In the mid 1800s, Christian Friedrich Schönbein discovered that when a piece of iron is placed in dilute nitric acid, it will dissolve and produce hydrogen, but if the iron is placed in concentrated nitric acid and then returned to the dilute nitric acid, little or no reaction will take place.” –

        It was because they only did half the work left it sit for 14 hours, that condensation formed at the coldest point during the night, just before dawn and that formed a dilute nitric acid. Technically if they had followed the procedure then no hydrogen would have been formed.

        1. The dilute nitric acid without a passivating layer forming, allows the subsequent reaction with water which releases hydrogen gas. So it is basically iron and water reacting, but turbo charged.

  3. I spoke to a person doing safety training on the mines here in Africa. Apparently one of the most common serious accidents involved pipes. Sections brought into place with heavy machinery. To get the flange holes aligned, the pipe may have to be moved or rotated. The guys would often stick a finger into the one mating hole with predictable results…

      1. A “spud” wrench has a tapered handle and is used by ironworkers for lining up holes in girders. But a finger is always available if the wrench isn’t around. Even if a finger is accidentally removed,…well, that’s why we have ten fingers, right? ;)

        1. I went to uni with a kid from that type of background. He had a story for each one from growing up on the farm. WHen he was down to three remaining at age 20-ish, they sent him to college as he wasn’t good for much on the farm anymore, and at that point, college couldn’t hurt him much.

          Interesting times.

  4. For those with relatives with long hair, another one that makes the news every couple of years, is of girls hair that gets caught in the shaft of go carts. Very messy, removal of the scalp from the eyes up. keep them safe.

    1. A few years back, a female PhD student was working alone in the machine shop at night. Got her long hair caught in the lathe and they found her there the next morning. It was all over the news.

  5. At a previous job, we all had to watch some rather cheesy safety videos, and one part showed somebody arriving at work, pulling a bottle of Jack Daniel’s out of the glove compartment, and taking a long swig before going in to work, along with a voice-over saying, “This is not acceptable.” Everyone broke out laughing. A month later, one of the guys who had laughed at that scene was fired when he was caught drinking booze in the parking lot before he came in for his shift.

  6. I just love these cheesy safetyvideos, I have watched a lot of them, including Stapelfahrer Claus.
    But the military is a goldmine of this type of content, try and find some old ones that are free to publish now, and you will have a hoot

  7. Saipem made very good safety video based o true event that took place on their site. It shows not only direct cause but also all chain events that took place on that day and led to this fatal accident. Shame it is not available on their yt channel because it shows that safety is much more than just “don’t put your fingers where you wouldn’t put your d…”.

  8. Some dangers may not be obvious at first glance. Ultrasonic cleaners is one of them. As harmless as they appear, sticking your finder in the liquid may appear to be fine. Until the next day, when you wake up with a black finger. The ultrasonic vibration can be strong strong enough to break the cell walls. In bad cases, gangrene set in, and the only solution is amputation.

      1. It’s basically a weird way of saying “subcutaneous burn”. Technically speaking, the ultrasound hits the fatty layer under the skin and causes cavitation, which means there’s tiny bubbles that collapse and heat up, breaking the fatty tissue. The same effect is used for ultrasound assisted liposuction at lower levels.

  9. Does anyone know where you can find the SNL safety parody video. It was a parody that looked and sounded exactly like a ‘It’s Miller Time’ ad and has a guy going out to switch railroad cars (after Miller Time), another drunk walking into a table saw blade while cutting a board and a couple others. I remember it as being hilarious. Did not find it on YouTube, but came across this beauty with Steve Martin, John Belushi and others. “Who’s the Barber”

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