Hammering and Forging Safety Guidelines

Goldsmiths and silversmiths use hammers frequently in their work, silversmiths especially. A regular trade goldsmith might use a bench hammer with a ring on a mandrel twenty or more times a day. Blacksmithing operations use coal fires, gas torches and kilns. View these Hammering and Forging Safety Guidelines for your safety.

Hazards

See warnings related to “Blacksmithing” for more information. Vibration. Eye dangers from shattering hammers and flying bits of material. CTDs and ergonomic issues. Hearing damage due to noise. In the special safety issue of The Crafts Report, the American Academy of Otolaryngology notes that “as a general rule, noise may damage your hearing if you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard, if the noise hurts your ears, if it makes your ears ring, or if you are slightly deaf for several hours after exposure to the noise” (33). Hot forging involves burning fuel that may produce carbon monoxide; make sure to ventilate well. Gas handling issues, coal dust and other dangers are present when hot-forging steel.

Chemical

Not much. Depends upon the material being hammered. For instance, hammering a lot of copper exposes you to a great deal of copper oxide, which can affect you. Possible issues with the oil or sealer used for the handle.

Physical

Flying hammer heads, broken shards of hammer head or material slicing into your eyes. Vibration injury or other musculoskeletal injury. Hearing damage.

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Ergonomic

Primarily a problem for silversmiths and others who hammer for long periods of time. Examine working heights and posture carefully. Have a specialist watch you once to twice to identify things you are doing wrong. Take frequent breaks, stretch and change your body position. Change working heights during the work day. Use your shoulder preferentially, then your elbow,and try not to use your wrist much at all when hammering.

Fire

See “Fire Safety Rules“. A blacksmith’s trick is to hammer on a piece of bar stock so fast that it heats up to a red glow and is then used to light the fire. I have seen this done. It is not a likely problem for goldsmiths. The oils (and their thinners) used on hammer handles are flammable. Sparks are possible when hammering.

Exposure Routes

Eyes, body, hearing, possibly skin with oils, inhalation of dusts raised by hammering.

Safety Precautions to Use

  • Wear eye protection when hammering.
  • Hearing protection is essential.
  • Change your posture and working height now and then.
  • Take breaks every forty-five minutes or so and do something different now and then.
  • Do not use your wrist much when hammering; use your elbow sparingly, your shoulder most. Listen to your body! Snap the hammer forwards a bit at the bottom of the swing-let go and stop pushing then and the hammer will snap itself back up, lifting itself so you have to do less work.
  • Keep your forging area separate from the work areas of others, to reduce the damage to their hearing. As well as damaging your ears, noise can distract you or your coworkers, which can lead to injury if they’re doing something requiring concentration. It’s also just irritating; to quote the American Association of Otolaryngology, “some people react to loud noise with anxiety and irritability, an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure, or an increase in stomach acid.” (55).
  • Wear safety glasses during hot forging and when hammering in general. Protective clothing (long sleeves, leather shoes, a face shield if sparks are flying around) is also recommended for hot forging.
  • Tie your hair back if it’s long.
  • “Other protective measures with hot forging should include ice for treatment of minor burns, salted water for heat stress, and a cool room for work breaks” (McCann, AB! 436).

Substitution Options to Reduce Risk

Die forming, spinning, casting, pressing, construction methods.

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