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General Shop safety

More than 30 years at the bench gives you an exposure to multiple
injuries. That is a fact.(No matter how careful you may be … sooner
or later Murphy is gonna get his piece of you)

All that you can do is try to be as safe and thoughtful as you can.
By thoughtful, I mean thinking a process all the way through - every
movement you intend to make, every chemical or material that you use,
and all of the possible ways your tools or environment could injure

There are basically only two kinds of bench jewelers - those who
break some stones, make mistakes, and get hurt - and those who lie a
lot. But there are degrees, and if you are ALWAYS reasonably
careful, you can/will minimize some of the variable causes of these
things. On the other hand, if you are too careful, you would never
get out of bed, never produce anything. Like everything in life you
have to find a balance that YOU can live with.

To date, a small sample of my injuries include: Chopping off the tip
of my index finger on a lathe while under extreme pressure to get a
set of sterling napkin rings done on a Christmas Eve. Once, while
welding a rack for a small refinery, I knelt down to get a better
angle on the piece I was tacking - right onto a piece of still red
hot slag.

I wear glasses while I work, but a tiny piece of a broken 8/0
sawblade got past them. I never felt it go into my eye. The next
day, I damn sure did! The eye surgeon who removed it had to
anestisize me and shove the eyeball over to gain access to it. The
tiny teeth worked like a foxtail, and with every movement of my eye,
it had propelled its way all the way to the back of the eyeball. I
looked at it under the microscope after the procedure, it was 2mm
long, and it had begun to rust…

My graver injuries would equal a small volume of poetry, though the
words that came out of me (in either English or Spanish) would never
be confused with poetry… I’ve had four (yes, four) carpal tunnel
releases, two elbow releases, and a shoulder surgery - all caused by
pushing a hand graver for so many years. Learn from this - use a
power assisted engraving tool such as the Lindsay or other pneumatic
or mechanically assisted tools…

I don’t even count the little hurts that come from drill bits, torch
and buffer burns, plier pinches, stabbings with tools that "normal"
people would think impossible, and the various pieces of flying
shrapnel launched by buffers, grinders, flexshaft tools, and other
motorized or mechanical tools.

Ours is a dangerous occupation, not for the faint of heart. If
blood, burns, and mutilation faze you much, then I would advise you
to stay in bed. Don’t get me wrong, do all you can to be as safe as
you can - just be aware that the odds are surely against you. The
more time that you spend at the bench the more exposure you have to
injury. The same is true of driving a vehicle. AAA has worked out
the statistics for an average driver during a lifetime to be
somewhere around .8 injuries per driver. This goes up as mileage
goes up. Professional drivers have the most exposure, but generally
have the minimum injuries or deaths for a lifetime on the road. Try
to be a professional at your bench.

Study the MSDS that come with your chemicals & supplies, don’t put
them in the “round file.” Read the warnings that come with your
tools. Read accident reports that relate to what you are doing.
LEARN from them. Learn from what you’ve read on this thread.
Research safety on the Internet. Be aware that a lot is NOT known
about some of the materials that we work with every day. USE the
available eye, ear, and respiratory protection available - even if
it is awkward, uncomfortable or looks funny!

I suspect that the cause of the cancer I have just gone through
treatment for - was cadmium. I spent many many years with my nose
six or eight inches above the large sterling items I soldered …
breathing the vapors of this metal. Nowadays, everyone knows the
dangers of cadmium. Silver solders are now cadmium free. (Yes, I
know that the extra, extra easy still contains cadmium) Back 35
years ago, we didn’t know this, nor have cadmium free solders. Nor
did we use proper ventilation. We also had soldering benches that
didn’t just have a few pieces of asbestos on them - the entire bench
was MADE of asbestos! Asbestos fibers result in a different cancer
than the variety I got, so I may still have that to look forward to
in the future…

The moral of the story is simply this: BE AS SAFE IN YOUR WORK
hospitalization and disability insurance! Purchase an excellent (not
just adequate) First Aid Kit. Take some First Aid classes. Take some
advanced First Aid classes. Think about safety until it becomes
ingrained, automatic, and you can see (most of) the possible dangers
in every work situation. Then minimize your exposure.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts