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 general information on potential health and safety risks would be useful.
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. This is not intended to be a complete list of all hazards associated with lampworking, other hazards may exist.
Eye protection is very important in lampworking, for two reasons.
First, glass can sometimes shatter when placed directly in the flame, and you must protect your eyes from flying glass fragments. Goggles or glasses with side shields are good for this.
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 distracting yellow glare given off by 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 glasswork 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 may have different sensitivity.
Please protect your eyes. Check with your optometrist and other reliable sources for more information on choosing eye protection.
Melting glass in a flame produces a number of gasses and vapors that 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. Ideally a window should be open behind, or to your side, to ensure fresh air flow.
Some lampworking operations may require “local exhaust ventilation,” such as a fume hood, to eliminate hazardous or irritating vapors and gasses. If you find that you feel slightly short of breath or that you have a headache at the end of a work session, then you can be certain your ventilation is inadequate.
An additional respiratory hazard is posed by glass dust particles you might encounter in your studio or work area. These include powdered “bead release” compounds, the dust stirred up when you work with vermiculite and loose particles of refractory materials such as brick or ceramic-fiber insulation inside your kiln, and especially dust present in frits and powders, or created from cutting, breaking, sanding, grinding or cold working color rods. Dust should be handled with proper safety procedures, including wearing a full tight fitting style, NIOSH certified respirator, with a P100 rating on the cartridge, any time you are creating, or working around glass dust. You do not want to inhale or ingest any glass dust.
Take care not to inhale these irritating and potentially harmful dust particles. Be aware of hazardous dusts that can be stirred up when you are cleaning your studio. You can also use a sweeping compound made for fine particulates, in order to keep the glass dust from rising up off the ground.
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 to sandblasting.
When glass color is made, the metal oxides are stable and “in solution”, anytime you work with the glass, in any manner, you may be breaking open “the solution” and exposed to the metal oxides. This is a list of some of the metal oxides that may, or may not, be contained in the colored glass rods we sell, it is not intended to be a complete list: Iron Oxide, Chromium, Sulfur, Calcium, Manganese, Manganese Dioxide, Cobalt, Arsenic, Potash, Copper Oxide, Nickel, Chromium, Tin Oxide, Cadmium, Titanium, Uranium, Didymium, Selenium, Copper, Gold, & Silver.
Uranium glass contains Uranium, and emits low levels of radiation. Like any borosilicate color, it should be handled with proper safety procedures, including wearing a full tight fitting style, NIOSH certified respirator, with a P100 rating on the cartridge, any time you are creating, or working around glass dust. Like dust from any borosilicate color, you do not want to inhale or ingest any dust. In addition, we recommend you do additional research, in addition to the resources referenced below, to learn about long term low level radiation exposure, especially in cases where this glass will be in close proximity to a person, like wearing a pendant. More information on uranium glass can be found here:
Buckley et al. Environmental Assessment of Consumer Products Containing Radioactive Material. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NUREG/CR-1775. 1980.
Landa, E. and Councell, T. Leaching of Uranium from Glass and Ceramic Foodware and Decorative Items. Health Physics 63 (3): 343-348; 1992.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Systematic Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials. NUREG 1717. June 2001.
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 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.
Arrange your work area so that you never have to reach in front of your torch to get a tool or piece of glass. Choose your work clothes carefully, avoiding synthetic fibers, long loose sleeves, and shirts with open pockets or pants with folded cuffs.
Burns can be treated with ice, aloe vera sap, cold cider vinegar, or a variety of home remedies. Treat your injuries with respect; serious cuts or burns may require professional medical attention.
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 and check with your suppliers 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 be either 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 into contact with grease or oil, which can ignite spontaneously in the presence of pure oxygen.
Be sure to install check valves and flashback regulators 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 a hose is yanked. Keep all flammable and combustible materials well away from your torch.
At the end of each work/play day, shut off your oxygen and gas tanks and bleed the pressure out of the lines by opening your torch valves.
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 your skin to protect it from the radiation given off by the flame.
The following references may be useful in protecting yourself from the common hazards of lampworking:
Artist Beware, by Michael McCann, available from Center for Safety in the Arts, 5 Beekerman St., Ste. 280, New York, NY 10038
Contemporary Lampworking, A Practical Guide to Shaping Glass In the Flame by Bandhu Scott Dunham, available from Salusa Glassworks, P.O. Box 2354, Prescott, AZ 86302
Glassblowing: An Introduction to Solid and Blown Glass Sculpturing by Homer L. Hoyt, Crafts & Arts Publishing Co. Inc, 626 Moss St., Golden, CO 80401
The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide by Monona Rossol, available from Allworth Press
Ventilation–A Practical Guide for Artists, Craftspeople and Others in the Arts by Nancy Clark, Thomas Cutter and Jean Ann McGrane, available from Center for Safety in the Arts
“Beads from the Beginning” by Brian Kerkvliet, Glass Art Magazine, November/December 1994, P.O. Box 260377, Highlands Ranch, CO 80126
“F.Y. Eyes” by Lisa M. Malchow, Fusion Journal of the American Scientific Glassblowers Society, May 1993. 1507 Hagley Rd., Toledo, OH 43612
“Glassmaking Health and Safety” by Monona Rossol, Glass Art Society Technical Journal, 1989. Reprint available from Allworth Press
“Optical Radiation Hazards in Glassblowing” by Gary E. Myers, Fusion Journal of the American Scientific Glassblowers Society, August 1976
Simax Kavalier MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET
Manufacturer: KAVALIERGLASS, a.s.
Address: Office; Křížová 1018/6, Prague 5 , Plant: Sklářská 359, 285 06 Sázava, Czech Republic
Telephone: +420 327 550 111 Date Prepared: November 9, 2010
Emergency: +420 327 321 426 Last Revised: November 9, 2010
SECTION I - PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION
Product Name: Simax
Chemical Name: GLASS, oxide.
Formula Weight: N/A
CAS Number: 65997-17-3
Chemical Family/Product Type: N/A
SECTION II - COMPOSITION
Chemical Components % CAS. No. Nature of Hazard: GLASS 100%, CAS: 65997-17-3, N/A
SECTION III - PHYSICAL DATA
State: Solid Appearance: Clear
Boiling Point: N/A Softening Point: @ 820ºC
Specific Gravity: 2.23 gm/cm3 Vapor Pressure: N/A
Odor: Odorless Vapor Density: N/A 0
Evaporation Rate: N/A 0 Solubility in Water: N/A 0
Storage Precautions: Store in a dry area
SECTION IV - FIRE AND EXPLOSION DATA
Flash Point: Nonflammable N/A
FPA Codes: Health = N/A Flammability = Nonflammable N/A Reactivity = Nonreactive N/A
Toxic Gases Produced: None
Extinguishing Media: As for surrounding area
SECTION V - HEALTH HAZARD DATA
Exposure Limit (TLV/TWA): 10 mg/m3 Silicon 2 mg/m3 Aluminum 15 mg/m3 as dust
Toxicity: LD50 (oral-rat): None
Primary Routes of Entry: None.
>Effects of Overexposure: Glass dust may irritate eyes, skin, nose, throat, stomach or
respiratory tract. Rubbing may cause abrasion or skin irritation. Glass dust inhaled in very
large amounts can cause damage to the lungs.
Precautionary Steps: Wear safety glasses with side shields. Wear leather or other
appropriate work gloves. Coveralls. Respiratory protection not normally needed. If OSHA
dust limits are exceeded, use NIOSH approved dust respirator.
Emergency and First Aid Procedures: Eye injuries from glass particles should be treated
by a physician immediately. Cuts and abrasions should be treated promptly with thorough
cleansing of the affected area. If particles are inhaled, move person to a non-contaminated
area. Get medical assistance if irritation persists. Ingestion does not require first aid.
SECTION VI - REACTIVITY DATA
Stability: Stable Hazardous Polymerization: Will not occur
Conditions to be Avoided: None known Incompatibility (Materials to Avoid): None known
Decomposition Products: N/A
SECTION VII - SPILL AND DISPOSAL PROCEDURES
General: Avoid creating dusts. Collect spills using vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
Place in a closed container.
Disposal: Dispose in accordance with all applicable federal, state/province, and local
SECTION VIII - TRANSPORTATION DATA
Proper Shipping Name: N/A
Hazard Class: Not regulated
UN Number: N/A
SECTION IX - OTHER MISCELLANEOUS
These reduced reprints of the MSDS are provided for your information and is in compliance with U.S. Department of
Labor OSHA guidelines/standards.
The information herein has been compiled from data presented in various technical sources believed to be
accurate. We make no warranty and assume no liability in connection with the use of this information. It is
the user’s responsibility to determine the suitability of this information and to assure the adoption of
necessary safety precautions.
N/A - Not Applicable or Not Available
This information is offered as a starting point for your own safety research, and new information may affect the appropriateness of these recommendations. The suppliers of this information assume no liability for any injury or harm which may result from use or misuse of these recommendations. Be sure to consult with your physician, or other qualified expert regarding any health or safety questions you have.