Let's look at gloves. Some are rated for applications ranging from 800°F (426.7°C) to 1000°F (537.8°C), while others are rated for lower temperatures. Additionally, some are waterproof or are designed for use with chemicals.
Safety glasses are important, too. Some offer great protection by deflecting objects traveling toward your eyes, while others provide excellent chemical resistance. Still other glasses provide UV protection. Any or all of these can be critical depending on your project and location.
Masks are certainly on the short list. Safety masks range from lightweight, disposable particulate barriers to sophisticated respirators that protect against a wide variety of particulates, gases, and vapors when used with approved cartridges and filters.
I could go on about fire protection and fire extinguishers, but it doesn't matter what or how much safety equipment you have at your finger tips. What matters the most is thinking and planing safety before we act!
For example, before you light up that torch, look around you for any potential fire hazards. Don't walk across the room with a red hot piece of metal to quench it. Bring the water to the hot piece.
I was teaching one day and a student came up to me - from across the room - to ask me if her piece soldered correctly. She was holding it in tweezers. Needless to say, I reached out to grab it to look at it, and it was still hot! Always remember to keep in mind how others might interpret or react to what you are doing.
Don't use gloves rated for 200°F to reach into a 1650°F hot oven. And consider whether you really need to be reaching into a 1650°F kiln in the first place.
Always tie your hair back when using a torch or even a rotary tool if its long enough to get caught in the tool. Make a habit of washing your hands after working with metal clays and before you touch food or your face. This is especially important when working with base metal clays or chemicals like patinas and sealants. Don't let the floor or counter space around your kiln become cluttered. You don't want to trip carrying hot pieces or find yourself looking frantically for a clear space to put a hot bowl of carbon.
All of this is common sense. But sometimes, we (and I include myself here) forget to use the most important safety tool - our brains.
Until next time have fun and keep safely claying around!
by Janet Alexander