Electroplating Safety Precautions
Read the instruction manuals and directions most carefully. Plating and stripping solutions usually contain cyanides, bases or acids which, if mixed together, are used improperly or carelessly or come in contact with a cyanide plating solution can release hydrogen cyanide gas, which was used by the Nazis in the gas chambers and is still used in gas executions in the United States.
The “General Safety Rules for Tools” article applies here too, as with all power tools.
- Always be scared of electroplating. You can be electrocuted or poisoned, dying in agony or permanently disabled and mentally damaged if you survive. make sure that you receive instruction from at least two separate people in electroplating methods (best is four people-then you may better judge what level of safety you should use -well, we would hope so anyway…).
- Follow all electrical safety precautions. Proper grounding, rubber mats, insulated gloves, proper fusing are all appropriate things to consider.
- Use all safety Precautions. Neoprene gloves, apron, splash goggles, fume hood, proper chemical storage (think of what happens in an earthquake or a fire for instance and plan for it) are all essential for working with plating solutions. Never store acids next to cyanides. Always label and date solutions properly. Consider a locking, properly ventilated chemical cabinet for cyanide solutions.
- Use that Fume Hood. Be sure that the ventilation system is appropriate for hazardous fumes. A ventilation hood which is directly over or next to the bath is legally required in most places. Make sure that the electroplating solution fumes are not carried past your face on their way out. Use a system with a sliding or hanging window on the fume hood so that your are properly protect and air is being drawn in lower than your face height. Make sure that the fume hood does not vent outside the building near any air intake back into the building. Make sure that your ventilation system and air makeup (if you vent air new air has to come from somewhere) does not draw the hazardous fumes back into your space. An open window is not considered sufficient ventilation.
- It’s a chemistry lab, set it up like one. When you are working with chemicals consider how chemists work with them. Remember your high school or college lab? Everything clean and wiped down, things put away, lots of safety procedures to follow. When you are acting like a chemist then you need protection like a chemist – don’t forget that.
- Always add acid to water. If you get mixed up you can splash acid on yourself (See “Rules for a reason”)
- Don’t overheat your solutions! While it can ruin the solution for your purposes it may also cause fumes to be generated that are extremely toxic and hazardous.
- Don’t mix acid and cyanide solutions. Doing this might kill you. It can generate hydrogen cyanide gas. Make sure all pickle residues are removed from hollow objects before electro-plating.
- Don’t wear rings. U.S. Government specifications suggest that no jewelry be worn when one is handling electrical circuits. There have been several incidents where the jewelry contributed to an electrocution incident.
Interested in obtaining the Brain Press book on safety in the jewelry studio? The Jewelry Workshop Safety Report