Dubai: A Palestinian man who lost his hand, abdomen and both eyes to a near-fatal machine explosion plans to sue its manufacturer, a well-known name from Central Europe.
Still being treated for severe injuries at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital, Mohammad M. Chureh, who owns an interior design company, told XPRESS that the incident occurred when a nail gun exploded at a work site.
“One of my workers informed me that the nail gun was not functioning. I took the machine from him and was examining it when it exploded. I didn’t know what hit me as there was a loud noise. I felt a sharp stab in my eyes, hand and stomach as I fell to the ground,” said the 41-year-old as he recalled the June 2 incident.
Powder-actuated tools, nail guns are widely used in construction to fix materials to hard surfaces. They are powerful, easy to operate and enhance productivity.
Although not much is known about their availability and use in the UAE, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the US say they are responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year, with severe injuries even leading to several deaths.
Reason: they employ a direct fastening technology which relies on controlled explosions created by a chemical propellant charge, with their cartridges working exactly like the blank cartridges of a firearm.
“I specially procured the tool because of its professed efficiency and safety. But look what happened,” said Chureh.
He said when he arrived at the Emergency of Rashid Hospital, he couldn’t see with either eye. His left hand was badly crushed and his abdomen wall was gravely injured, its content eviscerated.
As the hospital’s medical report explains, a multi-disciplinary team of doctors reconstructed Chureh’s abdominal wall, amputated his left arm and conducted a series of other procedures. He now wears two prostheses — an artificial left eye and a cosmetic left hand, both of which are not functional.
“If this is what Allah willed for me, I accept it,” said Chureh who is still undergoing physiotherapy at the hospital.
His wife Shatha said their six-year-old son Jehad initially kept asking them where Chureh’s left hand was. “We told him it was in paradise. One day he said he had a dream where he saw himself giving his own hand to his father. When the cosmetic hand came about, he was very happy. He even plays with it and we try to make light of the situation to keep ourselves going.”
Dr Saud Trebinjac, Consultant and Head of the hospital’s PM&R Department, said: “The patient needed very complex rehabilitation by a multi-disciplinary team. Besides physiotherapy and pharmacology, we spread the palette of our services to include acupuncture and other alternative treatments.”
Jerwala Arwa Mustafa, Senior Occupational Therapist, who prepared the stump of Chureh’s hand for the prosthesis and provided psychological support, said she also guided him for braille as he cannot see. “Hopefully, he will be able to use a computer with auditory inputs some day.”
“I am very thankful to the support of the able doctors here and my family. I am also thankful that it was me and not my workers who ended up getting injured,” said Chureh. “It is all Allah’s will.”
But the sense of surrender apart, he is firm about dragging the nail gun’s maker to court. “No one else should suffer the same plight,” he said.
‘Use power tools carefully’
A leading health and safety expert has warned against the use of power tools without awareness or training.
Ajeeb Backer, Health and Safety Trainer and Consultant at the Emirates Institute for Health and Safety, told XPRESS many accidents occur in workplaces and homes because people are unaware about the dangers of using power tools.
He said tools like grinding and cutting machines, drilling machines and nail guns are commonly employed, but few meet the safety criteria. “Lack of awareness can cost you your life sometimes,” he said.
“Often, companies provide training for the use of such machines and you must ask for it. You must thoroughly study instruction manuals and learn about the possible hazards and how to prevent them.”
He said every tool has specific criteria. “For example, a grinding and cutting machine is designed for a particular rotation per minute (RPM). But if you use a wrong cutting disc with a higher or lower RPM, the machine can throw off flying fragments causing severe injuries. Similarly, you cannot put your hand inside a mixing machine — it will immediately get entangled. Or for that matter never wear loose clothing when using a drilling machine — they can get caught in moving parts,” he cautioned.
With nail guns, he said care must be taken to use safe trigger mechanisms to reduce the risk of unintentional firing or nail discharge. Tampering with the gun increases the chances of firing. “You should be careful not to keep your fingers on the trigger, when holding or carrying a nail gun or drag the tool by the hose. Anyone handling a nail gun must know what to do when it malfunctions.”
He said all tools must be disconnected when not in use, before servicing and cleaning, and when changing accessories. There are several dangers encountered in the use of pneumatic tools, he said. “For example, getting hit by an attachment or fastener. “It is a must to wear eye and face protection while using them.”
Nail guns are powerful, easy to operate and boost productivity for nailing tasks. Although not much is known about their availability or use in the UAE, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the US say they are responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year with severe nail gun injuries leading to construction worker deaths. Their guide on nail gun safety reveals that about two-thirds of these injuries occur in framing and sheathing work, besides roofing and exterior siding and finishing.
More than half of reported nail gun injuries are to the hand and fingers involving structural damage to tendons, joints, nerves and bones.
The leg, knee, thigh, foot and toes are also affected. Less common are injuries to the forearm or wrist, head and neck and trunk. Serious injuries to the spinal cord, head, neck, eyes, internal organs and bones have also been reported, resulting in paralysis, blindness, brain damage, bone fractures, even death.
Adequate training is a must for anyone using a nail gun.