Metal crafting has been around since the dawn of humanity. During the medieval period, Crafters of metal were celebrated as the purest artistic expression. Throughout the entire Renaissance, sculptors adorned the palaces of kings and homes of nobility with statutes and artwork formed by liquid bronze. During the seventeenth century, metalwork factories in England and America designed wrought iron products manufactured by blacksmiths who built the hardware for gates, doors, and fences.
Today, the metal crafting industry produces a wide array of metal products from boiler tanks and custom motorcycle frames to statues and fine jewelry. Crafters use a variety of hand tools, templates, computer-aided designs and equipment for forging and casting traditional brass pieces and jewelry. Many of these cases are bent, twisted, wrapped, scrolled and stretched into desirable shapes and designs. Crafters in the industry use various metals, especially iron, steel and cast-iron, copper and aluminum for utility products.
If you or a family member was injured while working as a metal crafter, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Employees in the ironworking craft are exposed to hazards in the workplace. Statistics maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor identify ironworking as one of the most dangerous career fields due to accidents and injuries. Many of these ironworkers not only fabricate the product using various materials but erect, assemble and install the item for the client.
Due to the heavyweight of iron and the need to heat or bend the material using massive equipment, the metal crafter must be well educated on identifying hazardous conditions. The crafter must be in good physical condition and able to climb, bend, lift, reach, extend and twist throughout the workday.
Steel Craft Workers
Other metal fabricators work with heavy steel to provide a variety of creative solutions for the consumer. The density and heavy weight of steel require special processes using various dangerous tools. Some of these tools include tube lasers, laser cutting devices, NC punch presses, forming equipment, metal stamping, horizontal and vertical machining, and welding of all types including plasma, TIG, MIG, resistance, and projection. Additionally, these crafters finish their products using liquid and powder paint products.
Metal crafters must be able to design, build, inspect, assemble and finish electrical and mechanical pieces/units according to the customer's specifications. Finishing equipment can produce desirable results using numerous materials including powder coating, wet paint, and E-coating.
Jewelry Metal Crafters
In addition to working with precious stones, jewelers also produce high-quality metal products using intricate design work. The jeweler also uses a variety of tools to weld metals together without revealing a blemish or seam. Many of the designs are completed using CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) software and apps.
Jewelers work with precious metals to create their pieces by manipulating gold, silver, platinum and other materials using hand tools and pliers. These tools bend and shape metal into the desired form. Some of these workers are regularly exposed to metal gases, alloy fumes and chemicals vapors when producing their jewelry products.
A talented jewelry metal crafter must be proficient and have essential qualities including an artistic ability, fashion sense, visualization skills and finger dexterity. Detailed oriented crafters with experienced interpersonal skills are usually successful because they provide sufficient attention to small and large details to produce the best results.
Metal Crafting Hazards
There are general hazards in a metal crafter's work environment that can cause acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) problems. These dangerous issues include:
- Mechanical Hazards including cuts, breaks, strains, burns and crush injuries that can occur from inappropriately handling tools and losing focus by other distractions.
- Chemical Hazards – Exposure to dangerous chemicals through breathing airborne vapors and fumes, skin absorption or swallowing can damage the worker's health. The level of injury is based on the substance's toxicity, the length of exposure, and the burden on the body's ability to repair.
Minimizing the risks of injury when performing metal crafting requires following effective safety protocols and the use of PPE (Personal Protective Gear) when necessary. Minimizing risks include wearing special work clothing, disposing of hazardous waste chemicals properly and taking appropriate measures in the event of an accident or exposure to dangerous materials and chemicals.
Exposure to Toxic Materials
Crafters at work with mental are typically exposed to a variety of oxides, salts, and dust that wreak havoc on the worker's health. Based on the client's job, the metal crafter might be exposed to nickel, mercury, lead, selenium, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, antimony, beryllium, and magnesium. In addition to touching these materials, during the cleaning, enameling, pickling, or patina phases to make the finished product, the crafter might be exposed to chemical and heating reactions when heating, soldering, melting or pouring the metal. Many of the metals used by crafters have been linked to a variety of illnesses including liver damage. In detail, some of these problems involve:
- Beryllium – Metal crafters are often exposed to beryllium that is used as an effective alloy with copper to make the metal both hard and non-corrosive. Heating beryllium in a poorly ventilated area could cause considerable hazards. Elevated levels of beryllium taken in the body through inhalation of dust and fumes has a direct correlation to the development of chronic and acute lung disease and lung ulcerations.
- Cadmium – Metal workers should avoid cadmium when possible because the metal, once used in solder products, was known to cause pulmonary edema where the lungs fill up with fluid. Long-term exposure has been correlated with the development of anemia, liver disease, kidney disease, emphysema, and bone deterioration.
- Chromium – Many plating solutions used chromium as a base. However, breathing chromium fumes and coming into contact with chromium salts are known to cause occupational asthma. The rate of lung cancer deaths associated with exposure to chromate compounds is significantly higher than normal.
- Lead – This metal is one of the worst components to touch without wearing vinyl or latex gloves. It is advisable never to breathe lead fumes caused by heating. The fumes and dust associated with lead materials is the primary hazard that causes serious neurological problems.
- Mercury – This metal is one of the most toxic components used in metal crafting. It is known to cause short-term, long-term, acute and chronic problems and can destroy the kidneys and central nervous system. Even minimal levels of mercury exposure can reduce sexual drive and cause infertility in both females and males, which can lead to congenital disabilities, miscarriages, and other defects. Exposure mercury is also known to contaminate breast milk.
- Nickel – The fumes from heated or melting nickel has been shown to be a proven carcinogen that does not have an acceptable level of safe exposure. Victims of toxic nickel poisoning have developed cancer of the larynx, lungs and nasal sinus cavities.
- Selenium – Brass black products used by jewelers are formulated using selenium because of its bluing compounds. Photographers have long used selenium as a printer toner. However, selinic gas to develop from selenium is known to produce selenic hydrogen fumes which can cause serious illnesses including liver problems and irritation to the lungs and mucous membranes.
- Zinc – Inhalation of highly concentrated zinc oxide fumes can be fatal. Zinc is often used in spin casting when making fashionable jewelry.
Metal Crafter Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 5800 Metal Crafters at work in Illinois. These statistics reveal that Metal Crafter Workers in the state earned $17.32 per hour, or $36,030 annually, on average. These earning wages are significantly less than the national averages. See Chart
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If you were injured in a job-related accident or suffered an illness or exposure, you are likely entitled to receive workers compensation. However, our legal team can help you determine if you are also entitled to receive additional monetary recovery from third parties as well. Our lawyers will do everything possible to ensure you receive maximum value for your claim. Our work includes exploring every legal option including how to prove a third party personal injury case. While you might be limited in the amount your family can receive through worker's compensation, a personal injury claim for compensation has no limit.
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