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Safety Tips from the AFMS

The following articles are reprints of safety articles that have appeared in past issues of the AFMS newsletters.  The author of each article is included with the individual artlicles.


bulletGround fault interrupters
bulletAngle of repose
bulletSun protection
bulletGeneral Safety
bulletSkin cancer
bulletFlying objects
bulletSun stroke/sun exhaustion
bulletBugs and varments
bulletTain’t So
bullet"Safety" glasses
bulletFirst aid kit
bulletCopyright Notice

Some Other AFMS Newsletter Articles on This Site:

bulletJun 1997 - Snakes
bulletOct 1997 - Brrrr!!!!!, Part II
bulletDec 1997 - Rotary Slingshots
bulletFeb 1998 - Don't Stop on Empty
bulletApr 1998 - Tote That Rock, Lift That Toolbag
bulletMay 1998 - Colorful And Deadly
bulletFeb 1998 - It's Just Dust, Isn't It, Part I
bulletSep 1998 - It's Just Dust, Isn't It, Part II
bulletOct 1998 - It's Just Dust, Isn't It, Part III
bulletApr 1999 - Danger!! - Sunshine Coming!!
bulletMay 1999 - Are You Ready for Trouble?
bulletSep 1999 - Hazards From Organic Chemicals
bulletOct 1999 - Sawing Away - Safety?
bulletDec 1999 - Is This Stuff Safe?
bulletMar 2000 - Now What Do I Do?
bulletApr 2000 - Zapped In Silence
bulletJun 2000 - Hammer Safety
bulletSep 2000 - That Was Stupid!!
bulletSep 2000 - Honnnk, Honnnk (Convoy Safety)
bulletOct 2000 - Go It Alone?
bulletDec 2000 - Safety First (Rotating Machinery)
bulletJan 2001 - Help Me! (First Aid Kits)
bulletFeb 2001 - Shop Safety 101
bulletMar 2001 - Help! And How to Say It
bulletApr 2001 - Safety - Safety - Safety
bulletMay 2001 - Ouch, Thats My Foot! (Safety Shoes)
bulletJun 2001 - It is the Dawning of the Age of - Sunshine
bulletSep 2001 - Digging Away
bulletOct 2001 - Just a Little Dust
bulletNov 2001 - A Bolt Out of the Blue (Lightning)
bulletDec 2001 - A Glean In Your Eye
bulletFeb 2002 - What's All This Tire Stuff?
bulletApr 2002 - Crackle or Click? (Electricity)
bulletMay 2002 - Crying Wolf (Warnings)
bulletOct 2002 - Are You Ready For Some Safety? (Club Safety Chair)
bulletMar 2003 - Safety First (Hammer Safety)
bulletMay 2003 - Safety (Safety in general)
bulletJun 2003 - Safety by Bill Buckner (Safety issues in our shops)
bulletSep 2003 - Safety on the Road

Other Sites Safety Links

bulletRock Hound Collection Safety
bulletRockhounders Safety Area

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Ground fault interrupters


Imagine that you are working away in the shop. As usual around lapidary work, there’s a little water on the floor. As usual, you pay little attention. You reach over to turn the switch on your equipment. ZAP!

Would you rather

       1. Your family learned CPR so that they might rescue you when you are electrocuted?

OR 2. You felt a short tingle, the electricity turned off, and you went to work to find and repair your machine’s electrical short?

One doesn’t have to be a genius to know you’d prefer number 2. But, have you prepared so that number 2 is assured. If not, read on.

There is a device called a ground fault interrupter (GFI). If answer number 2. appeals to you, you should learn about them and get some installed. What does the GFI do for you? GFIs detect the flow of current when something (perhaps you) in the circuit is grounded and, in a millisecond, turn off the current. If you are in the grounding circuit, it happens so fast that it will be over before you realized that you were in the circuit. Your life is spared. No sparks fly. No fire starts. Just, suddenly, the electricity is off.

GFI’s come in a couple of forms. One is as a unit to fit into your master electrical panel board. It will protect all the electrical equipment plugged in that circuit. The other is as a replacement in your wall plug-in box. It protects everything plugged into that one box. Neither is expensive ($12 to $25). But, most of us don’t want to (and shouldn’t) fool around with the back of our master panel board, So, it is best to have an electrician install GFI’s there. You can install one in the wall box yourself IF you know what you are doing. If you don’t, call an electrician for that, too.

The saddest feeling known is to say to yourself "If I had only done that first." Get your GFI’s and install them now!

Side thought - It is an excellent idea to put these on any circuit near a water faucet - especially around the bathroom, the kitchen, and the laundry.

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Angle of repose


Whenever we rockhounds go on a field trip, we are likely to be around a creek bed, a road cut, a quarry, a steep bank, or a spoils pile. If so, we should all remember that there is something called the angle of repose.

No, I'm not talking about how flat you should be when you lie down to rest. The angle of repose is a civil engineering term. It is a fact that a pile of anything - sand, rocks, marbles, hay, or whatever - has the property that the slope of the side of the pile determines whether the pile slides down or not. If the slope is over the angle of repose, it WILL slide - sooner or later. If it less than the angle of repose, it will sit there forever without sliding. The angle depends on the materials in the pile and on their sizes, so there is no general rule as to what angle is safe. Therefore, most road cuts and fills are slightly less steep than the angle of repose.

If you stand below or try to climb a slope that is too steep for the material it is made of, there is a very good chance that the top will come down on you.

It gets more complicated. Consider what happens when you step into the side of a slope. Your foot forms a hollow. This means the material just above and just below your footprint is at too steep an angle. So, it slides down. As it goes, it continuously forms a slope that is too steep, so the material slides and slides and forms a major slump. If you are trying to ride it or if you are below it, that is not good.

When you dig or extract a sample from a pile or a cliff or a quarry wall, the same thing happens. If you dig a tunnel, you have definitely formed a highly unstable slope and the slightest jar may bring it all down on you. That's why mines have shoring. Several children are killed each year because of this. I'm sure you have heard of it.

So, when hunting rocks, test the slope you're on or below for stability before getting into a position where you might get hurt or buried. And, always keep an eye on any rockhound that is above you. They might start something that hurts you!

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Sun protection


One of the fastest increasing diseases today is skin cancer. It is caused by too mush sunshine. It does not appear right after you get too much sun, though. It will appear 10, 20, 30, or more years later. So, the only sure protection is to start now to develop good habits to avoid sun damage to your skin. Then, keep on being careful.

The basic cause of damage from the sun is through ultraviolet radiation. Recent research has said that one serious sunburn as a child can lead to cancer. Recent research reports that sunscreen does not protect against skin melanomas - the deadliest cancer. In my area, our TV weathermen report the UV exposure factor. They include the safe exposure time. In summer, it typically is something like 8 minutes for fair skin people, 14 for medium skin people, and 22 for dark skin people.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following as ways to prevent and control skin damage from the sun. Stay out of the sun during the most dangerous times - 10 AM to 2 PM (11 AM to 3 PM daylight time). Wear a hat, a long sleeve shirt, and long pants (tight-knit cloth) when in the sun. Apply sunscreen before going out and re-apply every 2 hours or after swimming while outside. Use at least a 15 SPF sunscreen on all exposed skin (the 15 means it takes 15 times as long to reach the same sun exposure as with no sunscreen). The higher the altitude, the more UV comes to you and the more sunscreen is needed. Cloudy days do not protect you - UV comes right through clouds. If you work outside, use sunscreen daily. A tan does NOT protect you. Some medicines, drugs, cosmetics and birth control pills make you more sensitive to sun damage. If you develop and allergy to one sunscreen, change to another one. Watch out for reflective surfaces - sand, snow, water (The Great Salt Plains). Staying in the shade doesn’t help around these. Stay out of tanning parlors. Keep infants out of the sun. Start using sunscreen on children when they are 6 months old. Teach your children sun protection early and insist they follow the rules.

Sources: American Academy of Dermatology; The Skin Cancer Foundation

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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General Safety


What’s your reaction when someone says there’s going to be a safety talk? If you’re like most people, you immediately wish you were somewhere else. Is it because the people who talk about safety are boring? Or, do you consider yourself infallible and immortal? Yes, many speakers are and no you aren’t either. When we get bored at the sound of the word "safety", we’re not really thinking danger is a part of the things we do.

However, we are engaged in a hobby in which there are a great number of ways to hurt yourself or be hurt by others. So, we really should think about what we are doing and how we are doing it. We use poisonous materials, have flammable materials, use acid and caustic materials, use fire, generate dangerous fumes, drive in convoys, get out in the sun a lot, are often around unstable cliffs, ditches, and the like, use tools which often release flying material, use electrical equipment around water, use rotary tools, and more.

Do you know how to protect yourself and your friends in every one of these cases. Or, are you like many of us? - just go ahead and never think about something going wrong? Do you own protective equipment - like canvas and rubber gloves, eye protection, safety shoes, safety hats. If you own them, do you use them? Face it, most of us don’t. Can you treat insect and snake bites?

May I suggest something new? How about a "Safety Minute" at each club meeting. Either have a safety chairman or ask someone new each meeting to simply mention some one thing that people in the club do that should require safety considerations. No one has time to get bored. Everyone is reminded that there are ways to get hurt in following this hobby. An extra free benefit of this idea is that people will become more safety conscious even doing things that are never mentioned in the meeting. Hey, give it a try!

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Skin cancer


The next time you take a bath, stop afterwards and look over your skin all over your body. Do you see any spots? See any rough patches of skin? See any small "bumps" of white dead skin? Any moles that are changing or growing? Any thing else that looks unusual? If you do, it is time to see a Dermatologist. Maybe QUICK!

Sun damage to the skin is one of the major health problems today. But, it is not caused by what you have done lately. It depends on you sun exposure 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.

By far, the most serious problem you might see is melanoma cancer. This cancer spreads rapidly and is deadly. The four things that might indicate melanoma are: A varied color growth that is asymmetric, has irregular edges is something to worry about. If it is larger than 6 mm in diameter, it is really dangerous. This includes long time moles that change size, color, or shape. Run! do not walk, to the doctor if you see something that might be this.

Next in importance are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Although not as deadly as melanoma, these can be serious if not treated. Any of these 5 things might indicate that these are present. 1. An open sore that bleeds, crusts, or oozes for more than 3 weeks. 2. A reddish patch. It may sometimes be crusty. It may itch or hurt. 3. A smooth growth with a rolled border with an indentation in the middle. 4. A shinny bump or nodule which is pearly or translucent. They are often pink, red, or white. Less common, they may be tan, black, or brown. They MAY BE CONFUSED with a mole. 5. A scar-like area which is white, yellow or waxy. It will be shinny and the surrounding skin is taut.

Also important are three pre-cancerous conditions. These may lead to cancer if they are untreated. Solar or actinic keratoses occur as rough, dry, pink to tan patches on sunexposed skin. These are caused by the ultraviolet in the sun and. Leukoplakia is a smooth, white patch which affects the mucous membranes, primarily the lips and inside the mount. Radiodermatitus appears as a mottled area with a decrease of skin pigment.

We’ll discuss how to limit skin damage from the sun in another article.

Sources: American Academy of Dermatology; The Skin Cancer Foundation

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Flying objects


You pick up a rock that looks promising. You can’t quite tell if it's any good. You want to see what’s inside. So, you take your rock hammer or another rock and hit it to chip off a piece. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

That great specimen you want is partially buried in the matrix right there!. All you have to do is get it loose without breaking it. So, you grab a chisel and a hammer and start chipping. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

You need to get that rock out of the ground. All it needs is a little prying. You grab a crowbar, point the end at the crack and bang it down to force it into the ground. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

You want some rocks for tumbling. All you have are too big. So, you grab a big one, set it down on the ground, take a hammer and bang away. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

Your piece of slab is too big. It’s real time consuming to trim it with your saw. So, you grab a pair of pliers, grab a corner, and pry to break it off. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed. OR, you score the slab with a glass cutter, line the score over a bench edge, and start tapping to break it. ZING, a chip hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

You’re cleaning a fossil. As you chip away to get matrix off, you lean closer and closer to see that you get it exactly right. Suddenly your hammer slips and bounces. ZING, the hammer hits your eye. You are now one-eyed.

You’re gluing with epoxy. You get a little hardener on your hand. You wipe the sweat off your forehead. You get a little hardener in your eye. ZING, you are now one-eyed.

Wild? Exaggerated? Not really. It happens all too often.

Plastic safety glasses at WalMart - about $1. Plastic face shield at WalMart - about $5. Worth it? by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Sun stroke/sun exhaustion


Do you ever hunt rocks on a warm to hot day? Garden? Hike? Or something else active? Then, in much of the United States, you’d best learn to recognize the symptoms of thing going wrong when we get too hot.

HEAT CRAMPS are the less serious, but still dangerous result of too much heat. These are spasms of the muscles brought on by exertion in hot weather. Many times, the calves are the first muscles affected.

What causes cramps? Intense sweating followed by drinking of salt free water. They are more likely to occur if you’re out of shape, in poor health, tired, or have been drinking alcohol. BUT, they can occur to anyone! To avoid cramps, take it easy in hot weather, eat salty foods or take salt tablets, or drink athletic drinks that have salt in them. If cramps occur, stop, get in a cool place and rest, stretch and message the cramped muscle. Drink something salty.

HEAT EXHAUSTION occurs when you run out of body salt and/or water. Symptoms are fatigue, lightheadedness, thirst, maybe cramps, spasms, nausea and/or vomiting. Mental ability will be normal. Low grade fever (99 to 102F), a rapid pulse, and dehydration are often present.

In HEAT STROKE, the most serious effect, the individual will have a high fever (104 to 106F). There will be mental confusion, unusual behavior, convulsions, or coma. The blood pressure may be dangerously low from shock.

IMMEDIATE CARE for heat exhaustion or heat stroke includes moving the individual to air-conditioning, lying on their back, with a fan if available. Remove or loosen tight clothing, place cool compresses on forehead, neck, and under arms. You may sprinkle water on them, but do not put them into a tub or swimming pool. If they vomit, give them nothing by mouth. Otherwise cold, salt-containing liquids will help. Use 4 teaspoon salt in 1 quart water and give them 4 oz. every 15 minutes. If symptoms persist, or if they are unconscious, transport immediately to a hospital.

Remember, some people tolerate heat better than others. Even though you feel fine, if any of the above symptoms starts, act immediately. Continuing on and insisting "I’m O.K." or "I’ll be O.K. in a minute."is NOT the way to go. It can only make things worse.


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by Mel Albright, AFMS Safety Chair

For many rockhound clubs, the field trip season is upon us. For others, it is fast approaching. So, now is an appropriate time to think about such trips.

In the classical fashion, everyone meets at 7:30 AM at McDonalds or some such arrangement. Then, the leader says "Let’s go!" - "Everyone follow me.", jumps into his vehicle and goes driving off down the road. Everyone else falls in behind and each driver careful tries to memorize the car ahead of him so he won’t get lost. And - AWAY THEY GO!

What are the problems with this?

First, let’s consider the dynamics of the "follow the leader" approach. The lead driver takes off, and, usually drives at the speed limit or a little slower. The next car can’t exactly match his speed, so they get close and slow down, then get farther away, and speed up. The next car’s speed is even more erratic. By the time you get to "tail-end Charlie", he’s going anywhere from 20 miles under the speed limit to 20 over just trying not to be left.

Then, throw in a stop sign or traffic light. Some cars go through, there’s a pause for traffic, then a few more go, then there’s another pause, and so on. After a few cycles, the cars have to speed like crazy to re-find those that went ahead.

During all this, the driver is concentrating on the convoy - not on traffic. So, the chances of an accident go way up. Sometimes, less daring drivers refuse to speed and they and many behind are lost and miss the field trip.

SOOOO! For safety, several things need to be done. First, before starting, every driver should get detailed directions or a map of where they are going. Then no one is afraid of losing out. This way, no driver is afraid of being left behind, so they can concentrate on traffic and road conditions. Second, the leader should drive 5-10 miles under the speed limit at as nearly a constant speed as possible to minimize yo-yoing. Third, the convoy should pull to the side of the road and wait for everyone to catch up any time there’s a turn, a stop sign, a town to go through, or a traffic light. Finally, it would really help if the leader is in radio (CB) contact with a buddy who has agrees to be "tail-end Charlie". Then, if there’s a flat or any other problem, the leader can stop and wait for things to be straightened out.


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Bugs and varments


by Mel Albright (AFMS Safety Chair)

Whenever we go rock hunting, we should remember that we’re going into someone else’s world. Who’s? Well, we really don’t know. It might be some snake, some bug, some plant, or, even, something really big - like a bear. So, how do we prepare to be friendly - or at least not to make something mad?

Often, the best thing to do is simply not to go there. If there’s poison ivy or poison oak or poison sumac around, go somewhere else. By the way, can you recognize all or any of these that thrive in your neck of the woods? If not, best get someone to show you. Believe me, it’s better than finding out the hard way. As a kid, I spent 2 weeks of my life in bed from poison ivy.

What about snakes? First, remember most are not poison. Second, remember that some are. Third, find out the difference. In the United States, they state that there are only a few - rattle snakes, cottonmouth snakes, coral snakes and copperheads. Believe it or not, the snake would rather not bite you. If they don’t feel threatened, they’ll leave you alone. So, when in snake country, there are a few rules: Do not walk fast; Look before putting your foot down; Don’t jump or step over stuff- logs, rocks, etc.; Don’t reach into dark places before you look to be sure no one’s there; Don’t put your stuff on the ground where it might provide cover for a snake. And remember, a rattle snake does NOT always rattle first!

Then there’s bugs and spiders who can be unfriendly - scorpions, black widows, fiddle-backs, and the like. Again, a few simple rules will cover you - Don’t reach into a place before looking into it. Don’t put one hand down to support yourself while doing something else without checking out where it’s going. When you reach under something, you are reaching into the bug’s domain . Turn it over instead. Shake out any shoes, clothing, bed rolls, or whatever before putting yourself into them. Never say that some place is too tight for a bug. You’d be amazed at what a small crack a scorpion can sneak through (and loves to do so). I got a fiddleback bite one time by sitting on my garden tractor. The spider was under the seat! Now I look first.

Then there are the nuisance bugs - ticks, chiggers, no-see-ums, gnats, skeeters, and the like. Here, the best way is to be prepared. Use bug repellent BEFORE venturing out. Dust your ankles with flowers of sulfur. Don’t wear floral or sweet scents. Wear shirts with sleeves and long pants. Bees, wasps, hornets, and bumble bees are usually highly visible. Watch for them! Remember, that hole in the ground might be the entrance to a bumble bee nest! Also, remember that many soft drinks are attractive to them and they can and do land on your pop can - even while you’re holding it.

Finally, consider the bigger stuff - bears, skunks, and their neighbors. Be noisy, talk and rattle, and look ahead and they’ll be no problem. One exception - if you see ANY wild animal that doesn’t seem afraid or, even, approaches you, try your very best to avoid them. THEY MIGHT BE RABID! If you see a nocturnal animal wandering around in the daylight, there again is a good chance that it is rabid. In my area, that is especially true for skunks, possums, fox, and raccoons. Check with the agricultural or wildlife people in your area if you are not sure what wild animals might be rabid.

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Most rockhounds have a shop or a place that acts as one. Most of us have it as well equipped as we can afford. But, how well equipped is it for safety? Perhaps the best way to understand what’s needed is to compare our shop with an industrial chemistry laboratory.

Let’s look at lab equipment. The lab must, by law, have a suitable fire extinguisher readily available. Most often, that means it is hanging on the wall next to the "front" door. The lab will have a safety hood where air is drawn from the lab proper and exhausted outside and high off the ground. The lab will have safety cans - cans that have a spring-loaded lid to keep them closed and will be made of non-sparking material. The lab will have all-metal boxes or shelves or cabinets. The lab will have a non-skid floor with matting if the floor is likely to get wet. The lab will have safety glasses, face shields, ground fault electrical outlets, safety buckets, rubber and plastic gloves, safety waste cans, tongs and other tools for moving hot materials, an eye fountain for emergencies, a nearby emergency shower, dust and filter masks, a first aid kit, and other specific safety devices for the operations going on in the lab. AND MORE!

Well that’s something, but what does it have to do with a rockhound’s shop? Maybe nothing. Most likely, a whole bunch. If you have any flammable liquids around, you should have them in safety cans - stuff like alcohol, acetone, methyl-ethyl ketone, gasoline, kerosene. Actually, the lab will have the absolute minimum possible inside with the rest stored outside in a fireproof metal cabinet. Safety cans mean no spills. No spills means no fires. Other flammable stuff - glues and the like - should be stored in tightly closed metal containers (a metal fishing tackle box). Bottles of acids should be stored in safety buckets - they’ll contain the acids if the bottle breaks. Fuel bottles, such as acetylene or propane bottles, are securely chained to prevent their turning over and, perhaps, breaking off the valve. (Talk about a rocket!)

The safety hood in a lab will prevent the buildup in the lab of any flammable or toxic material in the air. You should copy the principle in your shop. Work with ventilation. Fresh air should come first to you, then to whatever you’re working on and then be exhausted (A floor fan hung in a window often works well.) or blown away if you’re outside.

The personal safety stuff - gloves, masks, safety glasses, tools, ear protectors and so on are all cheap and all available at WalMarts and most hardware stores. Spares for guests should be on hand.

The fire extinguisher and first aid kit are musts. The ground fault electrical outlets certainly should be used. The non-skid floor mat is needed in many rock shops. The proper tools for the job in hand are a good safety measure.

We might not be as well equipped as a commercial lab. The closer we can come the safer we will be. We should indeed consider all the same safety factors and what we can do to be safe.

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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Tain’t So


In Gilbert and Sullivans operatta H. M. S. Pinafore, Buttercup reminds us that "all that glitters is not gold" and that "jackdaws strut in peacock feathers". We should keep her advice in mind when we read "hints" in our own and in exchange bulletins. These ideas come from people with good faith, but often little or no scientific background. Editors copy from each other with little effort to evaluate the ideas. Many feel as I did when I started - "If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t have been suggested." So - they may be short-cuts to disaster. A few that I have seen include:

"Use permanent automobile anti-freeze in you saw instead of cutting oil."

I doo not know what this would do to your saw blade or how well it would lubricate. I do know that ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is a toxic material. It is bad for your health and for that of any pets you may have around. Skin exposure and breathing of the mist created by the saw would both be bad for you. This hint is a real loser. DO NOT DO IT!

"Use kerosine as a cutting oil in your saw." Again, this is a bad idea. Kerosene is A FUEL. It is less volatile than gasoline and more volatile than diesel oil. It doesn’t ignite as easily as gasoline, but it will ignite from sparks and heat. You could end up with several gallons of fiery fluid running around the floor. DO NOT DO IT!

"Heat a cab and some wax in a microwave oven for fast dopping." Do you remember Mt. St. Helens? The big explosion that occurred? That came from superheated steam. You can create a smaller version of the same explosion in your microwave if you follow this hint. All rocks have water in the pores inside. Microwaves work by heating water. The steam formed can create unbelievable force when it is confined as in the rock pores. When the rock fractures, there will be lots of shrapnel flying around. DO NOT DO IT!

Generic "mix this with that to do this" hints. When two chemicals are mixed, there is often a reaction. Some reactions are quite vigorous and release lots of energy. Mixing acid and water is a sample (see "superheated steam" above). AAA - always add acid to water. Other mixing reactions release toxic fumes. An example is porcelain cleaner and laundry bleach. They release chlorine gas. If you try one of these hints, start outdoors and with limited quantities. Or - DO NOT DO IT!

Remember - some good sounding ideas are really, really bad. Read them with caution and, if you’re not familiar with the material’s properties, ask someone about them.

by Mel Albright - AFMS Safety Chairman

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"Safety" glasses


by Mel Albright - Chair, AFMS Safety Committee

We are constantly reminded to wear ‘safety’ glasses. So, we tell the optical shop or the eye doctor that we want safety glasses. Or, if we don’t wear prescription lenses, we buy ‘safety’ glasses from somewhere. Then, feeling virtuous, we proceed to work away. Did you know that you are NOT very well protected?

WHAT! But they said these are safety glasses.

Well, they are and they aren’t. Several years back, the U. S. government passed a law that all glasses sold must be "safety’ glasses. The law’s meaning was that, if the glasses break, they will shatter into small, non-pointed pieces and form no knife-like shards that might puncture the eye and go deeply into the eye. This is the standard for safety glasses.

In industry, ‘safety’ glasses mean much more. In addition to breaking properly, they are designed to be break resistant. That is, if something hits them, they will tend to stop it instead of just breaking. Even more, industrial safety glasses may be designed to stop liquid splashes from hitting the eye - not just straight on, but also from the side.

So, we rockhounds should ask for and get industrial grade ‘safety’ lenses and frames. It is that resistance to breakage that offers us the most protection. I’ll admit safety glasses are not particularly attractive, but that’s not their purpose. Personally, I like a face shield in the shop instead of glasses. It is more protective, cooler, and restricts your vision far less than glasses. Actually, a face shield would be better on field trips, too. But it sure isn’t as handy.

Whichever, be sure to wear one of them when appropriate.

AFMS Newsletter - Vol 95, No. 6 August 1995

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First aid kit


by Chris Rylands - Bellevue, WA

[Did you know rockhounds field trip the internet, too? Recently, the rockhound e-mail exchange group had an interesting discussion. It started when Chris Rylands (BRIOSA@aol.com) attempted to describe the perfect light-weight first aid kit. See if you agree with Chris or perhaps you think of something that should be added. - Mel Albright, Chair, Safety]

The idea of this kit is small and lightweight but yet an all around life saver. >>One of those blue plastic eye cups if you need to wash out your eye, and an eye patch and eye ointment for infections. Most rockhounds do not bother using their eye protection. Next time you go out watch... >>Water purification tablets, cheapest, or one of those fancy pocket water purifiers if you are in a mineral rich area, with springs or flooded mines. >>Hmm. Nice Vug, Lost your footing, AAAAAAAA!!! WHAM!!! Roll of black tape (Electrician’s tape) it is elastic, waterproof, and air tight. Can be used for things like splinting, arm slings, worse yet tourniquets. >>I hear the plane and can see it but they cannot see me, no wood or too wet to have the smoking fire. Go to the local boat supply for orange smoke pots. Not flare guns, unless you want to burn to death in the forest. Or be on CNN as the most stupid of all time rescues. >>Water out of sand: For you Desert Rock-hounders, 2 dark green thick jumbo plastic garbage bag, one 3 foot 1/4" plastic fish tank hose. First dig a 3 ft x 2 ft deep hole. Place one bag in the bottom center of the hole, shape it as a cup. Lay the plastic suction tube in the cup bottom and up and out of the hole. Now cover the hole with the other plastic bag one layer thick. Totally seal the circumference of this hole and bag with sand. Now place a stone in the center, as to made a depression in the bag over the cup. As the humidity condenses on the top bag the moisture beads up and rolls to the drip point and lands in the cup. Then you suck on the straw. Remember you can also soak the pit sand with what ever fluid you want as long as it has H2O in it, radiator fluid, wet dirt, mashed up weeds/foliage etc. or even your own you know what. After all this is what the astronaut's life support systems do. >>30somthin sealed, wax dipped strike anywhere wooden matches, wrapped with wax dipped paper. By the way, did you know you can start a camp fire with fine steel wool and your flashlight battery. >>Pocket thermal space blanket. >>Chemical toe warmers, about $2.00 a pair at local sports stores, can be used as warm compress or to save your cold toes,/fingers.>>You may have a big geode stuck in your mouth, and cannot yell for help, and it is night. One phosphorescent snap and glow stick. >>One of those Oval Green Rubber Snake bite kits. >>A pocket card on CPR Heat injuries, Shock, Burns, Fractures, Dislocations, Cold injuries, Bleeding etc... most fire depts and or hospitals have these free items. After all if you save your partner's life, he/she may give you their rock collection. >>One safety pin, for among many things, picking out things. >>One candle. >>Pencil and 3X5" card. >>some waterproof cloth type Band-Aids And remember, if you are in the cold or damp climate, "COTTON KILLS". ---- Did I forget anything?

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Mel Albright, Chair, Safety

Arach-what? Well, Spiders, if you weren’t scared by the motion picture starring a few million of them. Spring and Fall are prime times for people and spiders to interact - not always to the spiders disadvantage. Spiders love warm, indoor places - quiet ones - and wood, brush, and rock piles.

Shoes, seldom used closets, rock storage, under tables and chairs, outdoor stone piles, wood piles (like firewood), debris piles (like from the garden or yard), unused cabins, laundry piles, and the like are the domain of the three spiders that people should look out for. The three are the black widow spider, the fiddleback spider, and, one that may be new to you, the hobo spider.

The renowned black widow is a hairless shiny black spider with a red or yellow hourglass on her belly. (Yeah, I know, I don’t wait to turn them over, either.) The females are 12 to 18 mm. in body diameter, so they aren’t too hard to spot - except they place their nests under things and out of sight. They rarely kill anyone but their bite may leave you thinking they have. From 10 minutes to an hour after a bite come muscle spasms, burning, cramps, nausea and dizziness. Vomiting may also occur. Stone piles, log piles, rarely used sheds, and other debris piles are favored by this one. (In the old days, it was on the underside of the outhouse seat - especially dangerous for men.)

The fiddleback or brown recluse is a pale brown to reddish with a dark violin shape on its back. Its body is 8 to 14 mm. It is the most dangerous spider. Its venom is stronger than pit viper snake’s venom. Its bite may cause fever, chills, headache, and - sometimes - death. The bite may also ulcerate and cause tissue loss that doesn’t heal - even causing permanent damage. If you find a bite with a reddish spot in the middle and a whitish halo around it, go directly to medical help. (I’ve felt this one, so I can say the bite also hurt like heck.) Basement crannies, clothes piles (even in bed with you!) , and other dark places are preferred spots. (Mine was under my riding mower seat with the mower in a dark, rarely used barn.)

The hobo spider is an import and has spread from ports. It is considered the most common indoor spider in the U.S. They are brown and their body is from 10 to 15 mm. They attack where other spiders run. Their nests are funnel shape. Their bite leaves a spot and a halo like the fiddleback’s bite and can cause 2 to 6 inch blister that take up to 6 months to heal and sometimes require surgical removal before healing is possible. The bites may also cause short term memory and vision loss, nausea, headaches, and fatigue. Rarely, the bite kills. They are most likely to move indoors with you when the weather starts changing in the fall. In the fall, they also mate and are particularly touchy and aggressive. They like wood piles, crawl spaces, barns, haystacks, and undisturbed clutter.

All three occur in every continental state. The fiddleback is most common in the south and the mid-west. The hobo is very common in the Pacific northwest. The Black widow is everywhere except Alaska.

If you are bitten: Light bites require light use of ice packs and cortisone cream. Bulls-eye bites or those with other symptoms require immediate medical care. If you’re bitten, try to kill the spider and take it with you for identification.

Reference: Center for Disease Control; United States Department of Agriculture

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