Aim for: a well laid-out, orderly workshop, well-lit by multiple non glare
light sources, well-maintained equipment, electrically and fire safe,
with low dust and few procedures involving solvents, with excellent local
ventilation at the appropriate work stations (such as investing or melting
areas), the use of work clothing, which is cleaned frequently, lots of
personal safety equipment (earmuffs, shoe covers to protect against molten
metal splashes, safety glasses etc.), different jobs and heights to work
at over the work day, ergonomically considered working actions and a conscious
attitude and consciousness of safety. Choose procedures that don't involve
exposure to risks. Set things up so that you can't hurt yourself. Make
safety a habit and then it won't seem like work. If you don't use a certain
chemical or hazardous procedure in your shop, then you are extremely unlikely
to get hurt by it. Substitute less hazardous processes and materials for
more dangerous ones. If you have an accident or a near miss it needs to
be recorded in your accident book and discussed so as to avoid doing the
same thing again.
To escape unnecessary work, look for examples of people who have solved
the same kinds of safety problems you have to solve, and see if you can
adapt some of their ideas and approaches for your own small shop. Look
for models around you.
There are dusts you can see in the air. It is, however, the smaller,
completely invisible particles that are the most dangerous. These, especially
fibrous or jagged ones like asbestos, cotton and silica, are stored between
the air sacs of the lungs. That is, you breathe them in and they will
never escape again. Once there, they cause scarring, thickening of tissues,
eventually stressing the heart because it is more work to breathe. Cristobalite
(a rather vicious form of silica) exposure is considered a real silicosis
hazard. It is a major component of casting investment.
Fumes are small particles of a material, often from metals that have
been melted. These may be very tiny and can be breathed deeply into the
lungs. Metal fume fever can be a real problem with molten metals. Metal
fume fever can be caused by zinc, copper, magnesium, aluminum, copper,
antimony, cadmium, iron and silver.
Dilution ventilation is used in many shops, where you open a window next
to you, and another one elsewhere, so that air passes you on its way out.
Dilution ventilation is not generally an effective approach. What we really
want most of the time is local ventilation, which means a sucking device,
slot or tube very close to the working area that is generating the dust,
mist or fumes so they are sucked away as they are produced: removed entirely
from the workshop and vented safely (i.e. not near a makeup air intake).
If you think you need a respirator to do something, red flags should
be waving in front of your eyes and alarm bells ringing in your mind.
If you have to use a respirator, there is something seriously wrong with
your ventilation system and working processes. And when you take it off,
whatever it was you were afraid of will still be there, an invisible dust
(such as cristobalite investment) on all surfaces, so that merely walking
past later will stir it up into the air so you can breathe it in. If you
are using one, make sure it is correct for your face and for the dusts,
chemicals and fumes you are protecting yourself from. Talk to your safety
supply company representative, or better still several of them. It is
easy to use the wrong respirator or to have an imperfect seal when you
Eye protection in the workshop usually consists of using safety glasses
and/or a face shield. Polycarbonate glasses are good. Aside from protection
from sharp objects, flying chunks, dust, chemicals, fumes, liquids and
hot metal splashes, we have to deal with glowing materials (infrared light),
the blue flame of a high-temperature torch (ultraviolet light) and "sodium
glare or flare."Most glasses and polycarbonates will stop the ultraviolet. So will most
contact lenses. The infrared is stopped by a "shade": numbers
2 and up have been suggested. It is important that one understands that
a "tinted" lens does not offer infrared protection-only a shaded
lens offers protection. McCann notes that "most
recent recommendations are to wear the darkest shade number consistent
with being able to see your work (ANSI Z87.1-1989" (McCann,
Artist Beware page 216). Side shields that stop UV and infrared
are also a good idea. The sodium flare, which is more of a problem for
glass workers, is stopped by didymium glasses.