Last Updated: Sep 13, 2021 Views: 7
Glass Working and Eye Safety
Different kinds of glass working present different hazards to the eyes. Ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, and glass shards are all threats to eye health. Glass could shatter or crack from improper heating or cooling, splinter while being cut, or break when dropped. Standard safety glasses or goggles can protect from flying debris.
Ultraviolet Radiation and Sodium Flare
Lampworking and kiln work emit ultraviolet radiation which can cause permanent eye damage over time. UV radiation can be blocked by standard sunglasses, but sunglasses do not block sodium flare, the orange glow emitted when sodium containing glass is heated with an oxygen rich flame. Instead lampworkers and kiln workers often turn to didymium glasses to block UV radiation and sodium flare while still allowing other visible light to pass through the lenses.
In "For Your Eyes Only," Peter Viesnik comments on the proper usage of didymium lenses:
This lens is adequate for many glass working applications where the amount of radiation generated is low. Suggested uses are: Beginning lampworking using hot head torches and MAPP gas, or propane torches with glass. Periodically viewing small kilns, acetylene torch work on silver and gold jewelry, enameling of jewelry any operation requiring occasional viewing of heat sources in excess of 1000 degrees, but not for use with pressure torches on hard materials where very high temperatures are generated.
Glass around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit begins to emit potentially harmful amounts of infrared radiation. This includes glass in a furnace, glass being reheated in a glory hole, high temperature kiln or torch work, and to a lesser extent glass being worked by a gaffer before it has begun to cool. Glassworkers who gather glass, reheat glass, or work with a kiln above this temperature are exposed to higher amounts of infrared radiation than those shaping glass. Repeated and long-term exposure to infrared radiation can cause health issues such as cataracts. Safety glasses with more infrared protection than didymium glasses are available for those at risk of infrared radiation exposure. These safety glasses include standard welding glasses or specially made safety glasses for glass blowing.
The following resources will offer advice, guidance, and information concerning safety glasses and other safety equipment. Inclusion of a title below doesn’t indicate endorsement by Museum staff. See disclaimer above.
- McCann, Michael. Artist Beware. [2nd ed.]. New York: Lyons Press, 2001.
- McCann, Michael. Health Hazards Manual for Artists. 4th ed. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1994.
- Rossol, Monona. The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide. 3rd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 2001.
- Gruenig, David. “Eye Protection for Furnace Glassblowers.” Glass Gazette (1992).
- Layton, Peter. “Eyes and Safety.” British Artists in Glass Newsletter (1979).
- Reynolds, Gil. “Kiln Crafting - Eye Protection for Kiln Workers.” Glass Patterns Quarterly (2012).
- Turley, Kristian. “The Importance of Protecting Your Eyes.” Glass Line (2003).
- Viesnik, Peter. “For Your Eyes Only--Eye Protection Advice.” NZSAG Newsletter (2000).
- teralabUK. Didymium Glasses for Glass Blowing. Youtube. 00:01:02. September 29, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtZT5kCc0CQ.
- The Royal Institution. Andrea Sella - Glassblowing and Didymium Glasses. Youtube. 00:03:38. December 4, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ul8CmUkO4E.