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Safety Replies Compilation #3

The nastiest accident I’ve had is with hydrofluoric acid. I had
an enameled piece in a closed plastic container w/conc HF, and
when I pulled it out (carefully I thought) I got a drop on my
skin. I rinsed it off immediately but it left a nasty, painful
burn - much worse than any other acid. I don’t use HF unless I
have to, and always in a well-ventilated area, and I try to be
careful, so this was the first accident I had with it, but was it
ever nasty! Elizabeth

P.S. Someone told me that William Harper spoke at a SNAG
conference a little while ago and said that he had to give up
enameling because it wrecked his eyes. Does anyone know anything
about this?

Elizabeth C. Wilkinson

EEEEEK I’'ve never seen the flex shaft\long hair accident but I
have heard stories.

That’s nothing. A friend who was in building trades told me a
couple REALLY bad ones.

[1] A guy is using a power nailer to put together wall
framing. [A power nailer uses cartridges that are just like
blanks from a gun. Instead of driving a bullet, the shot drives
a nail.] This guy was driving twelve penny framing nails, (4"
long x 1/8" thick, with a very rough galvanized coating). His
attention lapsed for just a moment and …

BANG! He drove one of those big spikes straight through the
middle of his thumb, right at the first joint.

To get him loose, they had to cut part of the framing timber
away with a power saw, (imagine how good the vibration felt as
it was transmitted up the arm through the shattered joint), and
then cut the nail with a hack-saw. (More vibration, only
slower.) All of this so they could take him to the hospital,
with the nail still in his thumb.

[2] A teenager in a woodshop class is using an industrial
size/power table saw to split a 2x4 length- wise. Thinking he
could get a better view of what he’s doing, the kid stands
directly behind the piece of stock as he feeds it into the
multi-horsepower machine. He has the blade adjusted wrong, and
he tries to force-feed the stock, rather than letting it go at
its own pace. The saw, running at full-speed, “kicks-back”,
i.e., the blade gets jammed on a knot or nail and, unable to cut
through it, spits the board out. The force of this causes the
2x4 to skewer the kid like a gigantic arrow – driving straight
through his liver, breaking his back, killing him.

  From the auto-repair industry.

The flex-shaft long hair accident makes you go EEEEEK!? Try the
fan-belt, running engine, long hair accident. Pulls the
person’s head into the fan.

But, here’s the most HORRIFYING, DISGUSTING one of all. [This
one I read about in the Washington post. It was also on our
local tv news.]

A guy hears a loud grinding noise, and looks out the window.
His next-door-neighbor is having some yard work done. The noise
is the sound of tree limbs being fed through one of those
gigantic shredders. Hoping that the racket will end soon, the
guy goes back to his morning paper. Well the sound just goes on
and on and on until the poor guy is going nuts. He goes
outside, and the machine is running, but there’s nobody around.
Great, he thinks to himself, they leave the *#&@ thing running
and take off somewhere.

Not quite.

Nobody knows exactly what happened, but, somehow the worker
feeding the tree limbs through the shredder must have gotten his
sleeve caught on a limb as he was feeding the machine. The
powerful diesel motor fed the tree limb through the shredding
blades. Since the worker was stuck to the limb, the motor
pulled him through the blades too.

There was nothing much to bury.
Sweet dreams,


I once saw a guy holding a chain in his fingers while polishing
it on the buffer. The buff caught the chain, and popped him in
the eye. Terrible site! He had to wear an eye patch for a month
or so. Luckily, his vision is O.K… I also heard a story of a man
who had a Bic lighter on his bench. …While using his torch, he
passed the flame too close to it and the lighter exploded. Don’t
know the extent of injuries. Those torch mate lighters are
wonderful! Ken Sanders

we all get burns in the shop either from metal too hot or a
mis-aimed torch flame that just crosses our path to remind us ,
we are playing with fire. I keep an aloe vera plant on the
window sill for just such close encounters of the "hottest"
kind. Frank Goss

Back in the seventies I was running a work-shop with some 16 - 20
craftsmen, equally split between setters and mounters, with the odd
polisher and caster thrown in. We kept an accident book, according to the
regulations. Most of the recorded events were very trivial - cuts and
bruises. But there was one event that sticks in my memory…

A sixteen year old apprentice setter was set the task of raising grains on a
milled out penny. His first job was to stick-up the coin on shalak. He
the shalak stick on a bunsen burner and placed the coin in the centre. Keen
get started, he decided to cool the shalak the best way he knew how - by
blowing on it. Unfortunately his mouth got too close to the hot shalak. He
attached himself to the side of the coin, burning both his lips.

The entry in the accident book became a lesson to all aprentices that
followed him. It never happened again.

Cliff Green

I was sawing a sword guard (tool steel, 1/4" thick) with a #8
blade. The blade broke on the down stroke. The blade broke in suck a
way that an inck of the blade was left in the frame. On the down stroke
as the blade broke the blade went threw the nuckle of my middle finger
on my left hand. The blade poped in and out in a split second. The
blade missed the bones of the digit. Just a hole in the top and bottom
of the nuckle. I was woried that the 4 teeth left on the blade would
leave steel fragments in my nuckle. I at once quit and let it bleed. I
then did quite a bit of healing work on it for preventative implications
for the future.
On another note. If anyone uses an Arc welder. The bright light
will fuse soft contacts to the cornea of the eye if by accident an arc
is struck without eye protection. The result is painless and the end of
the day will comeabout. As the contact is removed, the cornea will
stick to it. If it is pulled out the person is blind.
David Anderson

OUCH! This student had fairly short hair was bent over and
caught her BANGS in the shaft. Kinda did a unicorn thing on the
front of her head. Lucky for her she took her foot off the
pedal. It did a permenant spiral that had to be cut off. I
think even short hair can be at risk.

I have also sawed fingers, fingernails etc. Nice clean cut but
much blood. Alchol fires also scare me. I mix alchol and borax
for a fire scale prevent and have got my brush caught on fire
when applying a second coat when the first had not went out.
That really scares me!

In reply to “enamelling wrecking the eyes”, I believe the
reference was to the practice of staring into an open kiln at a
work-in-progress to monitor stages of melt during the enamelling
process, without using suitable eye protection, ie. welders’
goggles with at least a #5 lens.

Manufacturing processes such as casting, flame welding &
cutting, most fabrication, and enamelling, involve exposure of
the artisan to intense and prolonged sources of infra red
radiation, or heat. The materials that are used to construct a
kiln, and related handling/production equipment, are mostly heat
resistant. This promotes both the longevity and the production
consistency of the equipment, which means low
operating/maintenance costs for the manufacturer.

The materials that the artisan is composed of are not so heat
resistant, thus we wear aprons, heavy boots & gloves, etc.
While it may be relatively easy to recover from burns on hands,
feet, and such, recovery from optical damage is often difficult.
The use of dark-filter goggles by the artisan in close proximity
to any intense IR source, is strongly recommended, if not
required by industry. Adequate eye protection is the one area
in which purchase of only top-of-line equipment is mandatory;
inferior items (camera film, etc.) are not worth the risk.

I wish to offer the following to illustrate my point:

In a small town a few miles downstream from me, lives a
glassblower & family. They have a glass art factory, and he
does most of the work, in front of one of three kilns (set around
3000 F, 24 hrs./day). He loves his work, spending long hours at
perfecting his melt, building his reputation for fine work. But
ten steps away from the hearth, and he has trouble counting the
fingers on his hand. His desklamp might as well be a
searchlight. What is a sunny day to us, is a dim & hazy image
to him. Etc. All because he works in front of the kiln all
day, working without any eye protection; an approximate area of
40 X 60 degrees, right in the middle of his eyesight, is lowered
by 90%, which is to say the exact shape of the kilnmouth, 5 feet
away…and all he has left is peripheral vision. And to think
it only took ten years.

So, what price to fame?

Daniel P. Buchanan

Cold water is good for burns but there are now moist gel
bandaids and patches that are more convient and if they are left
on for 24 hrs really work.

Marilyn Smith

When I was in High School, a friend of mine’s little brother
tried to force a board through the saw and got the same
kickback… instead of hitting high, it hit low…ummm ick…when
all was said and done, the poor kid lost his right testicle ( it
was the size of a baseball when they removed it )… sorry for
the ick factor here, but bad BAD things can happen to people.


  I''ve never seen the flex shaft\long hair accident but I have
heard stories.

I’ve know of people who turn fabric or cotton into pulp (making
paper for casting) to catch their hair in the machine that looks
like a large blender. I’ve never experienced any accidents, other
than a mild burn because I was silly enough to try to pick up
something hot. I have cut myself on my saw blades, but nothing
serious, yet! Rita

When I replied to Mr Lewton-Brain regarding accidents I was
reminded of a couple of “unique” occurences.

  1. Around Christmas, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine who
    is also a goldsmith stopped by my shop to see if we had a small
    ruby he needed for a job he was working on. We did and we gave it
    to him. The next day he called me to see if I had another one.
    When I asked if he had lost it he said, “Actually, I had pulled
    out the ruby and had it in my hand when I realized that I had
    forgotten to take my vitamins. I went over and took them and
    washed them down with a coke. When I returned to my bench I
    couldn’t find the ruby, it was then I realized that I had
    swallowed it”! I told him if he waited a couple of days he could
    probably recover it, but he prefered a new stone.

  2. This same guy had a customers emerald and diamond ring for
    months, he just couldn’t get to it for whatever reason. The
    customer had threatened to take actions that my friend would find
    very unpleasant if the ring was not delivered, and fast. So my
    freind worked late into the night to finish this job. He was
    working on a couple of other jobs at the same time as well as
    casting a peice using another customers gold. He took a break to
    cast, when he returned to his bench he could not find the emerald
    and diamond ring that belonged to the threatening customer. He
    looked everywhere, after awhile he went back to quench the flask,
    he then noticed something sparkling in the crucible. There were
    diamonds and emeralds in the crucible, he had melted the ring
    accidentaly! I asked him how he explained this incredibly stupid
    mistake to his customer. He said that he put him off a couple
    days and made a new ring. When he pesented it the customer said,
    man this looks like a brand new ring! My friend agreed.

My explaination for this very talented fellows mishaps is that
he never sleeps properly. He will work for 48 hours straight and
then sleep 4 or 5 hours. And when he does sleep he often just
pulls the air mattress that he has velcroed to his ceiling down
and crashes on the floor of his shop. My personal rule is not to
work past midnight, no matter how busy I get. I think your
quality of work suffers that night and the next day if you don’t
go home and sleep. Thats another reason I don’t have a bench in
my home, I am afraid I would never stop working.

Mark P.

The nastiest accident I’ve had is with hydrofluoric acid

I had a very similar experience. Where I aprenticed, there was
no one that had any real experience with enameling. I was on my
own. It was easy 25 years ago to buy what ever chemicals I
wanted. Hydroflouric acid was one of the more interesting ones. I
got a drop next to my fingernal. I couldn’t wash it off or
neutralize it. Went and saw a doctor. He put my hand in a
whirlpool and acted pretty much like I was some kind of sissy
trying to get a day off of work I repeated to him what the
precautions on the bottle said. There was no visible damage.
Seems that most damage was done where new fingernail was beimg
formed. My nail fell off inside of a week. Strange. A year or two
ago there was an article in Discover magazine that addressed
poisoning by Hydroflouric acid. If you can find it, I would
highly recommend reading it. Manmountain Dense

he most common accidents that people have seen or
experienced int he jewelry workshop.
Definately sawblade cuts followed by graver and scalpel cuts

What accidents have you had or seen in the studio?
Worst one I’ve seen was when Boric acid in alcohol in a glass container
caught fire and cracked big fire bad burns.
Have you had or seen any bad experiences using chemicals in the
Just acid holes in clothes
Have you had or seen any chronic illnesses caused by working in a
jewlery studio? (anything from silicosis to skin conditions)
What would you like a safety report for the jewlery workshop to
deal with?
Definately cyanide products and ventilation
Thanks for working for us.
John Caro

In response:

What accidents have you had or seen in the studio?

  1. broken saw blade went into a jewellery student’s eye at George Brown
    college (no eye protection). His eye was okay after the piece was removed
    at hospital.
  2. wire wrapped into polishing motor, Sandy got a bad cut on her finger,
    didn’t need stitches. Mary Pocock at Harbourfront (with a new high speed
    motor) caught her finger in wire and it took the tip off her finger.

Have you had or seen any bad experiences using chemicals in the

Have you had or seen any chronic illnesses caused by working in a
jewlery studio? (anything from silicosis to skin conditions)

  1. Sandra is developing osteo-arthritis (the kind of arthritis from
    overuse) in her index finger, middle finger and thumb of both hands. I
    have it slightly in the index finger of my right hand. This is after 28
    years of full-time school and jewellery making. Reeva Perkins developed
    it too.
  2. Alan Perkins, our enamelling teacher, developed problems from enamel
    firing while we studied at George Brown. You’d have to ask him what these
    were. Lead fumes? Silicon dust?
  3. Chronic neck and shoulder problems, from traditional jewellery bench
    height. A physiotherapist seeing our high work benches (low seats), said
    "No wonder you have neck problems. You’re working with your arms up too
    high. It would be better to have a lower table for assembling pieces,
    measuring etc. Just use the high bench for sawing and filing." Not a
    totally accurate quote but that was the idea…
  4. Theo Janson about 1983 was tested for cadmium and found to have
    elevated levels. She did (with Ted Rickart at the OCC, now at
    OCAD…specialist there in safety, good to talk to) a project on fume
    hood construction.

What would you like a safety report for the jewlery workshop to
deal with?
Most common safety problems. Recommended set of rules for workshops and
Instructions for basic fume hood construction.

Any preferences for how you would want presented?
Could be organized by materials, similar to ARTIST BEWARE book. Or by
workshop areas: soldering/casting/torch ~~~ bench/sawing/filing ~~~
polishing/grinding/dust etc.
Goss Design

Aside from the numerous sawblade cuts, and occasional burned fingers, here
the only other accidents: Once I was melting snips of silver for fake
granulation, (I call them caviar); several of them rolled off the charcoal
block and toward my lap. They bypassed my lap and fell onto my chair, which
was a molded plastic office-type chair on wheels. By the time I put my
down safely, pushed back and jumped up, I had a fe nasty little burnsin a
where I couldn’t easily soak them in ice water! From now on, I tilt the
charcoal block up and away from me; I place a thick leather apron on my lap
when soldering or melting parts likely to fall, and I am instantly ready to
push back my chair on the wheels!

IDue to my advancing middle age and declining close up vision with
nearisighted glasses, (I hate using an optivisor), I tend to sit with my
only a few inches away from what I am soldering. (only if really small)
noticing an awful smell, I realized that I actually burned some of my bangs-
hair in front. I haven’t learned much from this , and still do it
occasionally. Not too much damage…

I’ve also pinched my fingers badly using a guillotine type cutter.- not by
blade,but somewhere else, I have yet to discover where…??

last week, I set up some acid etching of copper, and put the piece, etc. in
glass baking dish with a fitted plastic cover. I laid it across the top of
uncovered ultrasonic, to give it a little vibration, and to warm it a bit.
left the studio, and when I returned, I found that the dish had fallen into
ultrasonic, and the solutions had mixed, so the cover was not as tight as it
used to be. I cleaned everything up, and there seemed to be no damage, but
shudder to think what would have happened if I had been using more dangerous

Also, here in earthquake country, I realized that I’d better think harder
about dangerous situations, leaving bottles or dishes of solutions out in
breakable containers, etc.

I would like to se you address the matter of adequate ventilation,
particularly in small studios, where elaborate rigs are impossible. I have
hard time wearing a respirator mask, having a small face, and glasses. They
usually give me a headache. But I have asthma, and am very sensitive to
polishing residue, dust, etc. I have put off doing much about this, except
make designs that require less polishing. I know that isn’t the answer.
also use a variety of lacquers, thinners, patinas, etc, and I know that my
lungs aren’t going to be very pretty down the road. Foxymom


William Harper nearly destroyed his eyesight while enamelling
(and soldering, etc.) in a studio space without adequate
ventilation over a number of years. The fumes/etc. gradually took
their toll. He litigated this issue with the institution which
employed him during this period, for lack of providing adequate
(safe) studio space. I think he won, or settled favorably, this
case; but the monetary gain can never compensate for the impaired
eyesight. A sad story.
_____________________________David Palnick

You and I have the same Jeweler or his identical Twinn, about 6
months ago a Jeweler here in CT. presented me with his
credential and resume, he is a GG and has done custom lost was
for 20 years and the list went on, he always does all Zales
Department Stores work , so he says.

It was a disaster that kept me awake nights, he never could get
down to deliver the work for usually 2 weeks and first he blamed
it on the fact that we weren’t home like the Mall stores from
10:00 -9:00 P.M. then he blamed it on his diabetes that he would
forget to take his insulin and eat and would end up in the
doctors office or the hospital once a month, then he broke a
victorian garnet at which point I was at the end of my rope and I
said that things were not working out, that was NOVEMBER and he
still has 3 of my customers merchandise and he cannot fine the
time to return it and twice he claims he sent one item and then
told me he was going to put a tracer on the package, so now
adding to his horrible assests he is a LIAR, it turns out he was
repairing a Shelby original car tag for a Police Officer and good
friend of my partners , so 2 days ago I gave the Police Office
his phone and address to let him try to retrieve it. I must add, I
do not owe this man a penny and he is charming and only 38 years
old, what happens to peoples minds, I have begged him to put it
in an envelope and have ups pick it up , I have even asked why
would you torture someone like this and he just thought it was
just no big deal and just doesn’t find time to get things done, I
don’t want to flame anyone but I am very tempted to call Zales
and talk to them. What is your opinion!!! And if I called him
today, he would say oh Hi how are you, he just doesn’t get it,
obviously this man is really sick. Thanks Chris

No workshop should be without an Aloe plant!


i second that!

geo Fox

Thanks for the reply. I’m glad that enameling wasn’t the cause of
the problem - things get strangely mixed up by word-of-mouth. It
would just be too horrible to wreck your eyes doing what you love
to do. William Harper is one of my heros, and I hope he doesn’t
have further trouble. I am however going to take Nelson House’s
advice and get some #5 welding goggles (thanks Nelson). I’ve
noticed my eyes have hurt a little when making alloys, and I want
to keep making jewelry for a long, long time.



I was once too lazy to find a brush (this was a while back) and
was using a corner of folded paper towel to apply firecoat to a
large piece. (NOTE: You may be a professional, but do not try
this stunt on your own! (grin))

POOF! Dropped the flaming mess into my quench jar was open,
but I think just dropping it on the bench away from anything else
flammable and letting it burn out might have been ok, too…

If the torch and flex shaft don’t scare me silly, should alcohol
flames? (What temperature does alcohol burn at, anyway?)


All plumbed eye wash stations should have both hot & cold water plumbed
in with a mixer valve to adjust the temperature. First aid for chemical
splashes to the eyes is continuous flushing for up to 15 minutes. That
is not possible with cold water.

From: Kathryn Nichol

Be careful
with alcohol and boric acid used to prevent fire scale when
soldering. I’ve worked with all manner of chemicals, acids,
torches, solders, rotary tools, hot metal, etc. with only minor
problems, but I’ve come close several times to setting either the
shop or myself on fire when alcohol dripped from jewelry or
tweezers after igniting it. The problem is that alcohol flames
are almost invisible and can go unnoticed until a real fire
starts. I once was intent on a difficult soldering task and
didn’t notice for a time that my bench was on fire. Fire
extinguishers should be standard jewelry shop equipment.

Rick Martin

G’day; Nelson House wrote about eye protection against infra-red
radiation from intense heat sources.

In the (very) distant days when I was engaged in the fabrication
of glassware used in science laboratories, we worked almost
entirely in Pyrex boro-silicate glass, which has a much higher
softening point than ordinary soda-glass. We used coal gas or
natural gas, and oxygen is essential - gas/compressed air isn’t
hot enough and acetylene is far too dirty. At one moment we
would be using a pencil point very hot flame and the next moment
we’d have a big brush flame to keep the whole job hot to avoid
cracking, then return to a small flame to join tubes or other
prefabricated glass parts. So one peers at the work almost as
intently as a jeweller peers at his/her work. A week of that and
yes - you begin to think about trained Labradors and a white
stick. We used clear spectacles especially made for the job - I
think it was a neodymium glass - and they filtered out all the
harmful infra-red but allowed one to see easily as they were
only a sort of pale pinkish colour. So glassblowers do see the
world through rose… Enough of that!

Only one problem (Isn’t there always?) they are very expensive,
but my Research Establishment bought mine, and I passed them on
to my successor. But ask any good optician about them, they’re
worth it in the long run…

   John Burgess,

Further answers to your questions:

Have you experienced or known people with RSI (carpal tunnel,
tennis elbow etc) injuries in the jewelry trade? Have they

I have had problems with carpal tunnel, particularly when I get into a
"saw little designs into sheet" mode. Also, I have Fibromyalgia (a form of
arthritis that causes pain in muscles, tendons and ligament). So, I must be
very careful of repetitive motions. I have learned to adapt to my physical
limitations by not becoming so focused on production shortcuts, such as
to make all my cuts on 12 different pieces in one fell swoop. I break up
so that I am forced to change position frequently. I have also placed three
different chairs in my workshop. One is a high adjustable stool, another is
low adjustable desk-type chair and the last is an easy type chair that is
and allows me to fold up my legs. I have also purchased what is essentially
"shoe rack" which consists of a free-standing shelf 12" tall by 12" deep and
30" wide. This allows me to stand at my benches and have my work high
so that I do not put undue stress on my neck and shoulders.

Do you know anyone who died/suffered late in life from a disease
that you think could be based on their jewelry making expereince?

Thankfully, no.

Do you know any substitute procedures (ie ionic cleaning versus
bombing) or chemicals (ie a non-silicate based polishing compound
to replace tripoli) that would be useful for me to mention in
this paper?

Sorry, also no.

If you were telling a beginner about health and safety issues in
the jewelry field and giving them advice what would be the most
important things you would tell them?

Not to skimp on ventilation or respiratory filters.

Terri Dubinski

in class once we had a polishing machine go into flames… the filter was
filthy … we all had to take turns cleaning the filter etc once a week …
more fires tho Ruth

In responding to your query re: carpal tunnel etc. I have not
experienced that, but I have had to contend with the periodic loss of use of
right arm due to narrowing of the spinal column as a result of a cervical
fusion performed 10 years or so ago. I am very nervous about dropping a lit
torch, or letting go of something I’m buffing etc.

I mention this to you because following the last serveral spinal
blocks I had to have, my doctor forced me to take a “back class”. In this I
learned how VERY important proper posture is, as well as the “right” way to
lift things.

I had been forced to learn (not easy) to saw/pierce sitting up
straight, as opposed to “hunching over” as was my old M.O. I am happy to
say that I have hard far fewer “incidents” since I began this practice. But
have also had to face the fact that when my arm begins to tingle, I have to
STOP doing whatever I am doing until the tingling and/or numbness goes away.

This doctors tells me that improper posture can lead to all sorts of
maladies. He also mentioned that the motions involved in chasing and
aren’t particularly the best things to be doing, but…

I forgot to tell you about my back problem
in my prior post.

I went to my doctor because I was having serious muscle spasms right
between and under my right shoulder blade. This was when I first started
working in my full studio full time. She gave me pain
killers…twice, which left me too woosy to work. After I whined for a
while she finally gave me an HMO referal sp? to see a physical
therapist. Who told me that my work in the studio had built up many of
my muscles but there was one in the area that couldn’t keep up and the
muscles spasms were related to it. She gave me a variety of exercises
and stretches to help solve it…after a couple of months of working to
build that muscle the pain mostly went away. I have to keep up the
exercises but the pain made work impossible…hope this is what you
were looking for. I have different insurance now thank god. That last
HMO was one of the ones where the doctors make more money when they make
fewer referals…a very bad idea in my opinion. It was like pulling
teeth to get 8 physical therapy appt. out of them.


I thought that the similarity might be cogent.

Have you experienced or known people with RSI (carpal tunnel,
tennis elbow etc) injuries in the jewelry trade? Have they

I have problems with both tennis elbow and carpal tunnel. Rest and