Piecework

Once upon a time I worked in a factory (Actually more than one). I recall watching a punch-press operator doing his thing. The punch-press was a very large and cumbersome hydraulic/electric machine. The operator would place a piece of sheet steel between the upper and lower dies and activate the press. He would then quickly remove the stamped piece and replace it. It was a piecework job, meaning the faster he worked the more he’d be paid (by the piece). It was a notoriously dangerous job with a long history of frequent ill-timed mishaps resulting in crushing amputations.

Over time the machines were improved for safety and this one had several safety devices installed. First they added two activation buttons high up on the machine. The die press would only activate by hitting both buttons simultaneously. In order to make it work the operator had to raise both his hands high like he was being held up.

The second was a safety gate that cyclically lowered just before the dies came together.

The third, and I think most remarkable device, was a pair of metal arms that protruded from the sides of the machine as it closed.

I wished then and there I’d had a camera because, you see, he was literally handcuffed to the arms of the machine. When the operator hit the buttons the gate would lower and the metal arms shot forth, thus physically pulling his handcuffed hands back and out of harm’s way.

I really wish I’d had a camera.

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About The Twentieth Man

Age 66
This entry was posted in Human Sacrifice, Observations, Personal History, Short Stories, The Twentieth Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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