NEW YORK — Carpenters working on the Museum of Natural History expansion project are banging their thumbs while hammering nails, sources say, and it is not uncommon.
“It’s actually quite embarrassing,” said B.J. Powell, owner of Queens-based B.J. Powell & Sons Construction. Powell said that despite years of experience, many carpenters frequently strike their thumbs. He said distraction is the leading cause of thumb-mashing among professional carpenters.
“I’ve been a professional carpenter for 14 years, and, jeez, I’ve been hammering since I was a boy,” Powell said. “But, you start thinking about lunch, or you see some pretty gal walking by, and wham, you got the thumb — and that really hurts.”
Bob Segal, the clerk of the works overseeing the project, said he knows of carpenters who often bang their thumbs, but declined to comment on any specific instances. “The project is moving along fine, and we’re still on target,” he said. “Many of these guys are independent contractors, and they are responsible for self-inflicted injuries, if in fact there are any.”
Murray Strongman, president of the local carpenters’ union, said thumb-banging among professional carpenters is more common than people think. “It happens all the time,” he said. “Many guys don’t like to admit it, of course, but heck, I bet there are thousands of sore thumbs out there.”
A recent study by the Labor Department indicates a rise in thumb-related injuries among carpenters. Last year, according to the report, 4,224 carpenters in the state claimed they had banged their thumbs, a 20 percent increase from 3,520 the prior year.