Friend lost his thumb last night


Donating Member
Ok, I am not even sure where to start with this thread

I was thinking about making it a poll, but then I realized I really don’t care what others are doing. I know what I do and I am comfortable with the way I clean and wax my chain.

Then I realized I was more concerned with everyone and wanted to smack some reality into anyone that in my opinion does not use common sense.

So.. I don’t know if it is years as a Marine Fighter mechanic.

Or years of training in martial arts.

Or due to all the brain cells killed when I was younger and used to live for the weekend party’s

But some things that people do.... all I can do is wonder what they were thinking.

Last night I get home from my sons football game and my cell phone rings, I see it is my friend who is going on the ride this weekend with me and Rich.

So I answer the phone “Hey what’s up!! Ready for the ride this weekendâ€

And the voice on the other end of the phone says:

This is Tiff (My friends wife) Marty is in the emergency room, can you go to the house and look in the garage for his thumbâ€

I am like “what happenedâ€

She says “He was cleaning the chain on his morotcycle and his thumb got caught and it got ripped offâ€

So in my head I already have a pretty good idea of what had happened

So quickly grab a zip lock baggy, pack ice into it I get over to his house in about 3 minutes and his son is in the garage.

I start looking at the scene trying to determine exactly what happened so I can have a better idea of where to look.

Lets see, rear wheel up on stand, key in ignition, towel wrapped up in chain in rear sprocket, blood splatter on tank, side fairing, ground.

Ok, so I figure he had the engine running, bike in first gear and was holding a towel on the chain as the engine rotated the chain around the sprocket, towel got caught in the chain, pulled his thumb in and crushed his thumb between the chain and sprocket.

(that was exactly what happened btw)

You know.. I just don’t know what to say about that, except I would never consider doing something like that.

Whenever I clean my chain I usually spray WD-40 on it while it is on a stand and slowly rotate the tire by hand. The most of I have ever don’t is hold a sponge soaked in kerosene on the top of the chain and manually rotated the tire as the chain pulls away from the sponge.

Here is a friend of mine who owns two street bikes, 3 dirt bikes a project car. Total mechanic. Retired Marine who worked on aircraft also, and he does something that I would never consider doing because of the risk and he sure enough loses his thumb.

People.. when you are doing ANYTHING do a risk assessment.
It is also referred to as risk management.

What ever you are doing, I don’t care what it is:

standing on a ladder to change a light bulb
(is the ladder secure? is it going to slip? what kind of surface is it on)

replacing an electrical wall outlet
(is the breaker off? am I using tools with rubber handles, can someone accidently turn a switch on providing electricity to the outlet?)

jacking your car up to work under it.
(Is the jack in good condition, is the brake on, am I on a hill, what if we had an earther quake, am I in the street and could another car hit my car knocking it off the jack?)

Analyze what you are doing, think of what could go wrong and take measures to mitigate the risk.

I am by no means perfect, and I have had my share of accidents (probably why I am so anal retentive now)

But for example, if I am doing anything with the car up on jacks other than changing a tire, such as pulling rotors off and / or working UNDER the car.

I not only jack up the car and place a good quality solid jack stand securely under the vehicle on a solid piece of steel under the car, but I will let the car down on the jack then after my 5 tone hydraulic jack clears, I jack the hydraulic jack up to where it is just barely touching the point where I jacked the car up from.

This provides me with redundancy in case anything totally strange happens, someone bumps the car, earth quake, etc.

The point is RISK MANAGEMENT!!  You need to think of worse case scenarios when you are working with any kind of mechanical equipment and take the measures required to ensure you have minimized risk of injury or reath to the greatest extent possible.

If you are under your car and all of a suddent there is a 6.5 earth quake, your pretty much done, it will probably come off both jacks.

But if you have two jacks under the car it would probably withstand a tremor, or someone bumping into it etc.

Risk Management isnt about ELIMINATING risk, it is about minimzing it the best extent possible. manageing something so the benafits of something outweighs the risk involved and risk of injury or death is minmized to the greatest extent possible.

So.. not dogging on my friend, but to make appoint. What has this lack of risk management cost my friend?

Well I found the piece of his thumb last night and got it to the ER, they then sent him by ambulance to a medical center to have a plastic surgeon operate on him.

I talked to him this morning, his wife is going to miss work today, he is missing work today, his insurance SHOULD cover most of the medical costs but there will be some out of pocket costs.

The part of his thumb I found was too crushed and the could not used it so that had to surgically take more of his thumb and just sew it up and call it good.

We were supposed to go on a ride this weekend which of course he cant do.

He was supposed to go out with this sons this Sunday and practice on their dirt bikes because they have an upcoming race they “WERE†all racing in. He already gave his deposit for the race which he cannot race in now so he will probably lose the deposit.

And he will go the rest of his life with a portion of his thumb missing.

Over all and in comparison to others, probably not THAT big of a deal, people go through life without entire limbs. After his thumb heals he will be able to ride again, it wont prevent him from working, it is not severe enough to permanently disable him.

But none of this is the point. The point is with a little planning, a little thinking and risk management, it didn’t have to happen.

AND, it could have been worse.

If anyone has any questions about risk management / risk assessment let me know.

I work with the military and it is something they have been preaching for years now, it usually comes up at every safety stand down we have which is a few times a year, so it is usually on my mind often, I don’t know in the civilian sector if this stuff is ever preached or talked about. If it isn’t and you don’t know the concept, learn it.

It is also referred to as ORM (operational Risk Management)

another example is wearing proper riiding gear.

When those of us who wear full gear ride, we are not ELIMINATING the risk of death or injury, but we are managing the risk to the greatest extent possible by factoring in what if scenarios and trying to wear protective gear that hopefully minmize injury.

If this thread can even prevent one person from getting seriously hurt then it was worth writing…


Donating Member
Um Ron that is the same way I clean my chain, and I have been a Marine Aviation mech for 20 years now
. I don’t wrap the rag around my hand though. It might be time to rethink how I do my PM's.


oRg Gal
Staff member

Glad I do NOT run the motor to clean the chain; nothing wrong with just spinning the tire yourself you know...definitely not worth that risk!


Donating Member
I witnessed a guy at work lose his thumb on some machinery. He was working on it while it was running. A double row chain and sprocket. I picked up what was left of it but the docs could not re attach it.

It only takes a second......


Peace Keeper or Ban Hammer-it's up to you; IDMBT#9
Staff member
Might be too many years of putting my hands near engine turbines, spinning driveshafts and rotors, but I never put my hands near the chain with the bike running and always clean from forward of the sprocket while spinning the tire back and down so the chain moves away from me...

Thank you for posting this... sometimes we get in such a routine that we don't even think about what could happen, because it has worked the last 11,000 times I have done it...

A hearty Semper Fidelis, to your friend and hopes for a speedy recovery.


Donating Member
(Gunnybusa @ Oct. 27 2006,11:28) Um Ron that is the same way I clean my chain, and I have been a Marine Aviation mech for 20 years now  
. I don’t wrap the rag around my hand though. It might be time to rethink how I do my PM's.
And so do so many other folk
I have asked where is your part you no longer have ? M/C chain is the reply more times than not
I know 3 riders i could see today (close) that been there and done that.


Busa Dude

Donating Member
When you take a chance no matter how carefull you are,There's always that chance and it just takes that one time and your hurt, It's the same as lockout tagout


Dang bro it gets the best of us sometimes, even the extremely mechanically versed.
I do run the bike in first on low idle BUT.... I hold the rag at the rear exposure of the chain on the back of the sprocket thus minimizing the possibility of snagging the rag onto the thing. I suppose that it could lead to injury of some sort...
Phug it I'll start to use the slower safe method of manual spin...


Donating Member
OMG, our neighbor did that just last month.. in OUR garage!! He only took the tip off..but was out of work for 6 weeks. He said it was the stupidest thing he has ever done, and now he has a daily reminder of how dumb he is..

His pic



Just because the dog eats it doesnt mean
Donating Member
Sorry about your friend Ron Hope he heals quick!... Excellent post on risk assesment. Sad that it had to come based on that event.


Never Forgotten
Sorry to hear about your friend. Hope this is a wake up call to all of those who think it will never happen to them. I never let the motor run when cleaning or lubing the chain. All by hand and never wrap a rag around your hand or fingers. Also human nature is when you are doing something like that or working on machinery of any nature is when a rag gets sucked in you dive in after it to get it. That is human nature and something you have to talk to yourself about prior to doing things like that if you are not experienced with it. If you work with machines or chains or anything similar you know to just let it go and shut out the machine but that is a huge problem with people and moving parts.
Hope all is OK with your friend. Sucks that it is his thumb. I would take any other digit than the thumb. Good luck!!


More mods plz..
Donating Member
I am very sorry to hear this. All I can think is (ORM) Operational Risk Management.

Glad he is ok.


Former BusaHolic
Donating Member
I use a cut down paint brush to get the wd-40 into the chain Shut the bike off, let it sit a while wipe it down with a rag manually then start it up and apply oil with another cut down brush. Let it dry overnight and I'm GTG.
Sorry about your friends digit. I , Like you, Hope it prevents future incidents.


Group Buy Guy
Donating Member
Wow... Hello, Darwin
I say that knowing there is a little Darwin in each of us! As we all take unnecessary risks everyday. A lot of times cutting corners just like your friend did Ron.
So if your reading this just as I did slow down a little and take your time.
Accidents can happen to anyone! Thanks for sharing, this makes me wanna re-think how I do things in around the house. Hope your friend heals up, very sorry this had to happen.....


Bald and Busafied
Donating Member
Thanks for the reality check Ron. I hope your friend heals up fast. I also soak it liberally with WD-40, then manually rotate the wheel and wipe with a towel while it's up on my Pitbull stand. I've done my share of other stupid things in my life, but been lucky so far (as I'm knocking on my wooden desk).

Mr. Anderson

Donating Member
sorry to hear about your friends, maybe some on this board can learn from his mistake.

yep, it's funny the dumb stuff people will do once away from work, it's like some people take off the "common sense work cap" when they're at home doing a project. I generally tell the juniors to ask themselves the simple question before they go and do anything, how will the safety message read with what they are doing goes wrong.

"commons sense, it's not just the change in your pocket"


I have a busa and might start modding it
Donating Member
sorry to hear about your friend ron.

I have never cleaned my chain with the bike running nor will I ever. I do however spray my chain wax on with the bike on stand, and in first gear. maybe i should rethink that too ............


Donating Member
In Marty's defence he probably thought it was OK at the time, especialy with all the mechanic time he had, this never happened before! Well we must all learn one way oe another. I ran three of my fingers into my table saw many years ago, I still have them, but they are scared up-some! NOW my fingers NEVER go near anything spinning, period! Hopefully some will learn from these mistakes. Still very sorry to hear this, I hope he makes a full recovery.

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