Shake Hands With Danger: ’70s Safety Film Provides Wisdom and Laughs

Shake Hands with Danger

“I used to laugh at safety, now they call me Three Finger Joe”

Dylan, before he was the coolest radio DJ ever.

Dylan, before he was the coolest radio DJ ever. (1966)

Recently I listened to an episode of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Radio Hour  from 2008. The theme of the hour long show was “danger”. Playing a bundle of topical music featuring a theme of risk, Dylan presented an audio excerpt of an industrial safety film from 1979, commissioned by Caterpillar Inc.. After hearing this song, I did some further investigation into the video.

Charles Oldfather

The man behind the voice, Charles Oldfather. (1983)

The short movie was quickly found on YouTube. The backing music from the clip featured twangy electric guitar riffs and the hardened, Depression-era singing voice of a man who sounded like a leathery, sun beaten character from The Grapes of Wrath. Matched with the B-movie, grainy cinematography, it occurred to me that I’d stumbled across something that was utterly too bad-ass to be forgotten in 2014.

You’ll quickly notice the salt-of-the-earth tone the narrator/singer utilizes. Who can argue with old-school common sense? Every line is something I’ve heard my father or his father utter at some point in my life. You get a feeling the narrator knows what he’s talking about and has swung a hammer a time or two in his day.That’s where the film excels–it puts the message in a language the target demographic can relate to. Do you think this instructional video would have the same effect if sold by Don Draper from Mad Men?

Aside from the campy, dark humor, the message of the video sticks with you days after watching it. The catchy song simply drives the point home. Upon further research, it was discovered that the voice of the video is Charles Oldfather, a one time Dean of the University of Kansas School of Law who was also an amateur musician and actor. Who’da thunk it, right? The dark, horror atmosphere of the accidents are executed flawlessly do in part to director Herk Harvey’s experience in the medium. He directed the 1962 horror cult classic, Carnival of Souls.

Working with heavy equipment is a job that requires a discerning eye and constant vigilance. As the lesson shows, one slip up can cause you to lose it all. Here’s some of the best advice pulled from the video:

Heavy Equipment and Construction Site Safety Tips:

  1. Don’t maintenance machinery while it’s on. Turn off ignition key and put a “Do Not Operate” tag on the control.
  2. Don’t leave lift lever in the raised position when turning off a bulldozer engine. Otherwise, the arms will rise automatically.
  3. Qualified equipment operators are the only people who should be using heavy equipment.
  4. Always maintain three points of contact (two feet, one hand) when climbing up or down grip iron ladders with tools in hand.
  5. “Taking short cuts is often a quick road to trouble”. Do the job the way it’s supposed to be done, even if it takes extra time.
  6. Don’t operate machinery when the body is present but the mind is elsewhere. Whether you’re stressed, worried or hungover, these distractions can and likely will lead to danger.
  7. Check your ego at the door. Don’t worry what the guys think about your being overly cautious. If they’re laughing at you now, they won’t be when someone gets hurt.
  8. Experienced workers should look out for those of lesser experience. It could spare the younger person a lot of pain and misery.
  9. When changing dozer/crawler tracks, restrain track before loosening it. Never take both tracks off at once. The machinery will begin to roll on its own.
  10. Temperature gauges, pressure gauges and safety caps are there to prevent accidents. Take notice of them.
  11. Don’t use gasoline as a cleaning fluid for tools or various parts.
  12. Warning and Caution labels are on equipment for those who heed them.

Take the time to do the job right. Don’t get in a hurry and pay attention to what others are doing around you. If you follow the steps laid out above in the video, you’ll save yourself a world of trouble in the long run. Believe me, cutting corners to get the job done can hurt someone–including yourself. You’d give anything to go back and do it the right way if that were to happen.

BlueLine Rental, is among our top heavy equipment service providers in the United States. Rent It Today provides rental listings for them in excavator, bulldozer, skid steer, boom lift and backhoe tractors nationwide.