Monday, April 6, 2015

Ouch! Preventing Injuries in the Glass Studio

It doesn't matter what type of glass art you create, one fact is true:  You will get cut. And each type of glass work method comes with its own set of dangers. The first type of work that may pop into anyone's head when you think of glass and safety is glass blowing, but it is equally easy to suffer a severe injury or expose yourself to toxins practicing any glass technique.

So with that in mind, here are some general "must do/no exceptions" glass studio rules:

  1. Keep a first aid kit in the studio. Be sure that there are always bandages and treatment for burns in the kit.
  2. Wear safety glasses! Wear them when you are cutting glass and not just when you are using grinders or saws. Prescription eyewear doesn't count, either. Regular glasses do not protect your eyes from glass that may fly up under or through the side of the glasses. 
  3. Wear a dust mask when working with any material that contains silica. This includes kiln wash, fire paper, fiber board, grout, thin set, cement, enamels and mold hardeners. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling silica particles, and there is no cure. Silicosis causes fluid build up and scar tissue in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. 
  4. Never eat or drink in the studio. This shouldn't need explanation, but the bottom line is that glass and dust don't enhance flavors.
  5. Never go barefoot in the studio. Wear closed toed shoes, not sandals or flip flops, and check the bottom of your shoes before you leave the studio. Glass can be embedded in the tread or soft sole of your shoes. 
  6. Have proper ventilation! This isn't just a precaution for hot techniques (fused glass, soldering, glass blowing), but remember that any solvents or adhesives you use may require extra ventilation or even a respirator. ALWAYS read product instructions and precautions.
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Additional protections that you should consider are to wear cotton/denim clothing that does not hang too loose, and consider wearing a durable apron. This prevents accidents caused by clothing getting caught into equipment (saws, drills, torches etc.) or trailing into hot soldering irons or other dangers. An apron works well because it catches pieces of glass or other particles and can be easily dumped from the apron into the trash. 

If you have long hair, tie it back. This is especially important when working with anything hot or power equipment.

Have a fire extinguisher nearby, and store flammables correctly, away from kilns and other hot equipment.

Check your power equipment before plugging it in. Check blades, wires, tanks and attachments for wear or cracks that may break during use and replace. Additionally, only use power strips, not extension cords, and never use an extension cord for kilns.

Consider using ear protection when using loud equipment like tile/glass saws or rotary tools (Dremel).

Don't take routine tasks for granted. It's easiest to make a mistake when you are acting thoughtlessly. I know some groups like to get together and have art and wine parties, but alcohol in the glass studio is not a good idea, even in a sippy cup. Don't ask.

That might seem like a long list of "DO this, DON'T do that", but working safely is the only smart way to work.

May all of your scores run true!

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