Foundries are a source of many hazards. There is a hot work environment and the potential for burns or fires around furnaces and crucibles. Molten metals create fumes. Sand molding materials can create silica dust. Chipping, sandblasting, and grinding create dust. Conveyors, crushers, and stamping machines pose a caught/crush hazard. This combined activity creates a noisy atmosphere. Workers need proper work techniques, adequate ventilation, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe.
PPE protects you from the foundry environment. Wear leather shoes, gloves, and safety glasses with a side shield. A hat with a brim protects you from spatters. Use hearing protection in the noisy environment. When directly working with molten metals, heat, and flame sources, add a hard hat, apron, jacket or cape, leggings, and spats made of leather, aluminized glass fabrics, synthetic fabrics or treated wool. Consider a wire mesh face shield depending on the job task.
Because foundry furnaces, crucibles, and metals are at such high temperatures, remain cautious while you work. Do not work with equipment or processes that are unfamiliar to you. Be conscious of where your hands are when working with conveyors and automated machinery. All equipment you use should operate properly. Inspect foundry equipment on a frequent basis for cracks and signs of wear.
Never introduce water to the furnace or crucible. A trace amount of water can cause a large explosion. Pour and melt in areas that have a nonflammable surface such as metal or sand. Molten metal that is spilled can travel a great distance, so keep the work area clear. Have a Class D fire extinguisher handy along with a shovel and clean, dry sand for extinguishing fires.
Melting metals create fumes that can be hazardous to breathe. When possible, use clean metal as feedstock. Melting scrap metals can create fumes from old paints, lubricants, and coatings and lead, nickel, or chromium additives that are hazardous to breathe. Use good ventilation through exhaust hoods and wear a respirator that you are medically approved, fit-tested, and trained to wear.
Molding sand often contains silica. Silica dust exposure can lead to silicosis, a lung disease, or lung cancer. Use good ventilation with dust control measures such as non-toxic binding materials to control silica dust. Packing the molds, shaking them out, and cleaning the castings can also be a source of silica dust, so wear a respirator and work in a well-ventilated area. Enclosed and/or automated processes can further reduce your airborne exposures.