Of all the crafts, blacksmithing is easily one of the most hazardous. Older blacksmiths are usually marked and scars by burns and injuries, gotten throughout their years of blacksmithing. The more unlucky ones have difficulty hearing in one ear or both, and one eye may even be severely damaged. The occupational hazards posed by blacksmithing are numerous, but here are some of the most common ones:
- Joint injuries: A blacksmith spends a lot of time hammering iron and steel on an anvil. Many times, the anvil does not have a good rebound and they end up doing double the work, which can cause a strain to their elbows and joints. In this case, it is helpful to get an anvil with good rebound. An anvil with a good rebound will allow the smith’s hammer to rebound with almost as much energy as the smith put into the downward stroke, which will make the smith’s job easier and less strenuous. Another joint that suffers are the smith’s knees. Blacksmiths spend long hours standing on hard floors, which can put a strain on their knees. A good idea is to wear good protective shoes.
- Risk to hearing and sight: A blacksmith’s eyes are exposed to hot flying metals, which can immediately damage your eyes. So, before you start hammering away, make sure to put on protective goggles. No, your sunglasses won’t work here. You need to get protective goggles for this purpose. A blacksmith’s hearing too, is also susceptible to damage. The whine of the grinder and the roar of the forge can actually leave you completely deaf. Always use earplugs to protect your eardrums.
- Fires and Burns: In a blacksmith’s shop, fires can happen at any time. You have to always be prepared for fires. Always have a fire extinguisher you can easily reach. Also keep your forge a safe distance from a any wooden tools or walls. It’s advisable to always have a tub of clean water nearby, in case your clothes catch fire. In cases of burns, you should wear protective clothing to protect your skin from being burned. The tub of cold water will also help here if you do get burned. Just put the burned part into the water or use ice packs. Wear a big apron that can cover from your neck to your knees; it will prevent the burns. Never wear gloves when gloves when hammering, because the hot material can get on them, which can cause bad burns to your fingers.
- Smoke and toxic gas poisoning: Certain gases like Carbon monoxide are extremely dangerous and can even be fatal to a person, if proper preventive care is not taken. Whenever forging is done indoors, make sure that there is proper cross ventilation and even a chimney or a flue, for the smoke and gases to go out through. Smoke and CO detectors can come in handy also. Even though you have detectors, endeavor to take frequent breaks, to get fresh air outside.
- Metal fume fever: This is caused by burning zinc. Wrought irons do not usually come with zinc. They are mostly found in old alloys. You can use a respirator to avoid the toxic fumes or work in a well ventilated area, but your best option is to avoid them completely; so, just avoid galvanized steel.
There are a lot more hazards, like scrapes, cuts, crushed fingers, etc, but these are the most common of them all. Most of the other hazards can be prevented by the solutions mentioned here. So, be careful and protect yourself!