Safety Guidelines for Flameworking and Glass Beadmaking - Sundance Art Glass Center
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Lampworking (Flameworking) Health and Safety Guidelines

Includes but is not limited to:

Like any craft or hobby, glass working has some inherent risk of injury to the artist. As interest in lampworking has increased, it has become clear that some general information on potential health and safety risks would be useful to many people. The following information is intended to increase your enjoyment of lampworking, while adding to your awareness and helping you reduce your exposure to potential hazards. These suggestions have been prepared and reviewed by a group of experienced lampworkers.

1.Eye Protection.

Eye protection is very important in lampworking, for two reasons. First of all, glass can sometimes shatter when placed directly in the flame and you must protect your eyes from flying glass fragments. You must also protect your eyes from potentially damaging Ultraviolet and Infrared rays, which are emitted when you melt glass in a flame. For many years, the standard eye protection for lampworkers has been "didymium" glasses, which have the additional feature of filtering out the sidetracting yellow glare given off molten glass. In recent years, other types of protective eyewear have become available, some of which are superior to traditional didymium glasses. The type of protective eyewear that is right for you depends on the type of glass work that you will be doing. For instance, making beads would give off less radiation than working a large piece of borosilicate tubing, which in turn gives off less than melting fused quartz. Also, different people have different sensitivities. Please protect your eyes!

2.Respiratory Hazards.

Melting glass in a flame produces a number of gasses and vapors which can affect your health. It is important, therefore, to ventilate your work area. At the very least, you should provide "dilution ventilation", in which a steady stream of air flows across your work area, drawing any vapors or gasses away from your face and out of the room. Windows at opposite ends of your work area, one of which has an exhaust fan, can be an effective form of dilution ventilation. Some lamp working operations may require "local exhaust ventilation", such as a foamed to eliminate hazardous or irritating vapors or gasses. If you find that you feel a slight short of breath or that you have a headache at the end of a work session, it may be a sign that your ventilation is inadequate.

An additional respiratory hazard is posed by dust particles you might encounter in your studio. These include: powdered "bead release" compounds, dust stirred up when you work with vermiculite, and loose particles of refractory materials such as brick or ceramic-fiber insulation inside your kiln. Take care not to inhale these irritating and potentially harmful dust particles. Wear a respirator, if necessary, to reduce your exposure. Beware of hazardous dusts that can be stirred up when you are cleaning your studio. Wet down any questionable areas or spills with a spray bottle before wiping with a wet rag, to reduce the chances of inhaling particles. If you sandblast your finished pieces, follow all safety guidelines appropriate in sandblasting your finished pieces.

3.Cuts and Burns.

These can be avoided with common sense and care. The most common minor burns occur when someone picks up the end of a hot glass rod or tube, forgetting that it is hot. A simple system, such as always laying the hot end of a rod away from you, can help you remember which end to grab. Another common burn happens when the flameworker reaches around the flame of the torch to grab a tool or a piece of glass. Arrange your work area so that you never have to reach in front of your torch to get anything. Choose your work clothes carefully, avoiding synthetic fibers, long loose sleeves, shirts with open pockets or pants with folded cuffs.

Burns can be treated with aloe vera sap, lavender salve or oil, cold cider vinegar, or a variety of home remedies. Treat your injuries with respect; serious cuts or burns may require professional medical attention.

4.Tanks and Torch.

Potential hazards also exist any time you work with compressed gasses. Carefully follow any manufacturer's instructions that come with your regulators or gas tanks. Check with your suppliers or local welding shops for safe operating procedures.

Never move oxygen tanks without their protective cap in place. If the tank falls over, the valve stem can be sheared off by impacting against a table or other object. The pressure inside the tank may then be high enough to send the cylinder flying like a rocket, injuring you and damaging your building. Oxygen tanks should either be laid on their side and secured to prevent rolling, or chained securely to a wall so they don't fall over. Note also that oxygen regulators, hoses and fittings should never come in contact with grease or oil, which can ignite spontaneously in the presence of pure O2. Be sure to install check valves and flashback arrestors on your fuel, gas and oxygen regulators to prevent backwards flow of gasses - a major hazard in the event of a fire or torch malfunction. Make sure that your torch is secured to the work surface so that it doesn't move if the hose is yanked, or the torch is bumped while working. Keep all flammable and combustible materials well away from your torch. At the end of each work/play day, shut off your tanks and bleed the pressure out of the lines by opening your torch valves.

5.Other Hazards.

These can include muscle strains or other injuries from maneuvering heavy oxygen tanks or repetitive movements (such as making hundreds of beads). Take frequent breaks and pay attention to your body's signals to minimize these types of injuries. Check for accurate height of table to chair for comfortable work. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are other possible hazards to watch out for. Drink plenty of water, especially if you are working with a large flame. You may also consider applying a sunscreen to protect you from the radiation given off by the flame.

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