August 07

Chemical Hazards Of Melting And Forming Glass

Working with glass involves many inherent risks like being around high temperature kilns, ergonomic stress from hours of work in awkward positions, and of course, burns. While each of these exposures represents a hazard in its own right, none of these compare to the risk caused by the chemicals a glass manufacturer can be exposed to while on the job.

There are various chemicals that can injure a glass worker by being inhaled or coming in contact with the skin. The steps in glass manufacturing that the workers need to be aware of chemical risks during include:

The Batch Process and Furnace
The batch process is the initial stage in glass manufacturing. The ‘batch house’ holds the raw material in a silo-like container. The materials are then fed into the furnace where they will reach molten temperatures. The chemical risk involved here is that the raw material can contain any kind of chemical residue if it is being recycled, which is very likely. When the residue is super heated in the furnace the residue evaporates into the air, where it becomes a hazard to those around the furnace. It is imperative to make sure the exhaust is functioning properly to ensure these harmful vaporized chemicals are being removed from the premises.

Coloring
Glass blowers use minerals in order to add color to their glass-works. The minerals are melted down to give the glass the vibrant colors we see in the finished product. However, these minerals are highly toxic if fumes are inhaled. Once again, mitigating this risk comes down to having proper ventilation equipment and safety masks.

Etching
Glass etching is the art of ‘carving’ designs into glass. The results are beautiful in the end, but the process needs to be handled delicately due the dangerous nature of how the etching is done. In order to etch glass, glass blowers use hydrofluoric acid and fluoride salts which are what causes the translucent and frosted appearance of glass etches. The two chemicals are very abrasive and therefore very dangerous. After all, they have the ability to corrode away glass, so contact with the skin would be very bad.

Sandblasting
Sandblasting is the process of smoothing out or roughening a glass surface by hitting it with coarse, abrasive materials at high speeds. The sands contain a crystal called silica that has been linked to a disease caused silicosis, which can be fatal. Safety masks are a must for sandblasters as inhaling these tiny crystals can be very dangerous.

The glass manufacturing sector of the glass industry contains some of the most dangerous exposures in the whole class of business. Safety precautions need to be taken in order to ensure the well-being of glass manufacturing employees involved in batching, coloring, etching, and sandblasting. Chemical inhalation is not a risk that should be taken likely, as mistakes or lapses in judgment can result in life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

For more information, visit GlassPro.

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