May 16, 2012
How (Not) to Break a Rock
Posted by Evelyn Mervine
A few commenters here and over at Dana Hunter’s blogs En Tequila Es Verdad and Rosetta Stones have been critical of my recent lack of safety when breaking rocks at the lakeside geologist lair.
I can only respond by saying that I am guilty as charged. However, while I won’t name names, I’m sure I’m not the only geologist who is guilty of being less-than-safe when rock breaking. Sometimes, it’s just too tempting to break those rocks… and you rush into breaking them without thinking of all the appropriate safety precautions. I’m extremely diligent when it comes to lab safety. I really should be more diligent when it comes to field safety.
Here’s a few rock-breaking safety reminders:
-Wear long pants. Jeans or other thick pants are excellent.
-Wear closed-toed shoes. Boots are probably best
-Wear eye protection. Safety glasses or safety sunglasses are essential. One commenter pointed out that regular old sunglasses could shatter. I personally plan to invest in a pair of safety sunglasses very soon.
-Use a rock hammer, whenever possible, especially for those particularly hard rocks. Avoid hammers that could shatter.
Okay, now who else has been a little bit lax when it comes to rock-breaking safety? Worn just regular sunglasses instead of safety sunglasses? Broken rocks in sandals? Please fess up (anonymously, if need be) so that I feel better. And so that we can all pledge to be a little bit more safe when it comes to the good science of rock breaking.
As a wearer of prescription glasses, I am not a fan of most safety glasses. If it’s a loose, particularly chip-inclined rock then I’ll step on the sample and block the line-of-sight with my boot. But generally, I’ll just take a calculated risk and angle the blow so chips won’t fly into my face.
However, my biggest safety peeve is if someone nearby is wantonly whacking away without regarding who else is around. If I’m hammering on a sample, I have a good idea of what’s going to happen with that rock. But you can’t anticipate anything if someone in your peripheral vision is about to slam some dolomite around.
Excellent point! I bet more people are injured by someone else breaking a rock. I’ve seen people hammering away on geology field trips without regard to those around them.
Also, it’s true that an experienced geologist has a sense of what’s going to happen with the rock. I’m still guilty as charged for unsafe rock breaking, but one reason I was lax is that I knew those soft rocks would break pretty easily… I didn’t even have to hit them very hard.
Yep, those were indeed extremely soft rocks. If we’d been whacking at something like obsidian, I would’ve been concerned. But not metagranite that was practically breaking apart in our hands. It’s a miracle my samples got home intact.
Still. Always pays to emphasize safety. Especially since our readers care enough to worry. 😉
When I was working for a mining company, I found the safest way for me to get a fresh surface was to get the flunky to break it. They always appreciated the opportunity to lower the pack full of samples too.
Oh have I got tales of dangerous field practices… Maybe this’d make an interesting Accretionary Wedge topic. Then again, maybe some tales are best told only around a campfire after a couple of beers… 😉
A campfire and a few beers and some field stories sound great. There’s a chance I’ll be out west in soonish… I’ll keep you posted if the plan materializes.
in my case no such safety thing during breaking rocks always tries to avoid nearby people
Safety greatly depends on the situation. Obviously it is always good to observe general best practices like those you mentioned, but it would also be overkill to wear your hard-hat, safety vest and steel toes in the woods, but they are all necessary in a mine. I know that I have been guilty of a few field safety sins…
Thanks for the post Evelyn, and sorry for causing the internet to make you sad. After spending nearly 40 years in various industrial situations I’m pretty aware of this stuff.
i’ll also confess that when practicing my hobby, which as you may guess involves my handle, I don’t practice what I preach nearly enough! Especially when it comes to footwear. Lifting heavy weights without safety shoes is kind of dumb. Perhaps I can do better this fall.
Hmmm. Somewhere up in my attic, I may still have a photograph of me jumping across a crevasse in rubber galoshes.
I once really trashed my hands smashing one rock with another. And my fingers healed in a week or so, but playing in the ocean with my son was a bit painful.