Recently (oh, fair warning, this paragraph is not suitable for squeamish people, take a hint from the title), another new mechanic at the shop was installing fenders, and was trying to really torque down on a stay bolt, pushing in on the screwdriver,  while stabilizing the bike by pulling in on frame.  His open palm was in a direct trajectory line of the screwdriver if it were to slip.  There was a slip.  I am SO glad I wasnt there to see what happened next, but when he came over next door with his hand bandaged up and described how he had put the screwdriver almost completely through his hand, to the point of having the back of his band swell up from having the screwdriver push up the skin from underneath, I got (and am now again) considerably queasy.  Luckily for this guy, the doctors assure him no longterm damage was done.

This job carries the potential for injury, but  most dangers can be avoided through appropriate technique and attention.  After my first week on the job at the bike shop, my hands felt and looked pretty awful.  Apart from being dry and dirty, I cut and bruised them constantly from tool slips, and remember having to wipe my blood off spokes and rims on more than one occasion.  But my hub adjust techniques have gotten better, and I have learned to use tools more carefully in general, and lately I havent had to the nightly neosporin-and-bandaid regimen i had going early on to take care of those gashes.

Everybody work safe, you hear?  Think about where things (tools, knuckles, etc) are likely to end up in case something slips.  Push away and down instead of up and in on things. Use a breaker bar in lieu of unwieldy body force for greater torque.  pay extra attention at the grinding wheel.

While cuts and impalings can be pretty much eliminated with proper technique,  I do  worry somewhat about developing hand problems, like RSI, down the line. Most bike mechanic work involves tightening or loosening threaded parts,  and my palms at first were as sore as they had been since  my flirtation with keyboard-induced repetitive stress injury at an office job.  That’s gotten better with time as well, but when installing tires and truing wheels I still sometimes need to take a break and shake my hands around for a while.  The really experienced mechanic I work with tells me that indeed he needs to sleep with those RSI wrist straps at night, and that he has suffered pinched nerves from pressing in on tools for more torque.

The job is probably not great for the eyes, either.  I feel eye strain working on bikes and parts that are mere feet away from my face all day,and feel the need to go over and look out the window every once in a while.  But on second thought I guess this job is no worse for the eyes than any office/computer job would be.

Oh, and there’s a lot (100%)  of standing involved, but that hasnt been an issue at all for me.  And I breath a lot of airborne lubricating oil, but I havent noticed any ill effects of that.  But all in all, so far, it’s been a great job and the work ambiance is positive on the whole.

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