Safety Third

“Safety third”, is what they say at Burning Man — when I naively asked what was first and second, the answer was of course obvious: having fun, and looking good doing it.

Worse, there was once a sign up in the kitchen of a cafeteria I used to frequent; it listed the top ten rules for cafeteria employees. Things like “Treat the customers and your coworkers with respect always”, and “Actively look for small problems and fix them before they become serious problems”, and so on. ”Put safety first” was, of course, number seven.

As I work on the design and implementation of a backyard aluminum foundry I’m going to think a lot about how to make its operation safe by design. Melting aluminum in your backyard is hardly a new idea; the internet has dozens or hundreds of web sites about people who have done so. It is astounding to me how unsafe many of those backyard operations are, in both design and operation. In the last couple of days as I’ve been researching this topic I’ve seen videos of people pouring molten aluminum wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. I’m not suggesting that you need to obtain a silver suit to melt aluminum, but I personally would not want a 1400°F puddle of molten aluminum splashing onto the floor beside my sandaled feet.

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