One of the most expensive categories of uncontrolled costs is that of training for heat treatment. However, training is absolutely necessary if we are to protect employees, management and the cost of insurance. If the company is seen not to have trained its employees and an accident occurs, the company would most likely face personal liability.

I am referring specifically to the training of operators, particularly for safety.

As all heat treaters (captive and commercial) know, the heat-treatment shop is most assuredly a place where accidents can occur. The safety training in terms of furnace operation and consequences of actions should be both mandatory and ongoing for all new hires and existing associates. If at least basic safety training is not conducted with associates, the results have the potential to be catastrophic with the risk of injury, fire and in some cases even death.

As managers and owners we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to shareholders to ensure that the metallurgical-processing and control equipment is handled in both a safe and responsible manner. I know that we are aware of the responsibility that we carry. But do our associates know and understand what they are handling? Some of the equipment we handle has the appearance of fire-breathing dragons!

In some instances, the company is very lucky to keep some new hires past first break, knowing that they can go and flip hamburgers for almost the same pay just down the road. For someone who has had no exerience or knowledge of heat treatment, first exposure can be very intimidating and unnerving. But it is these associates that will ultimately handle the equipment of a heat-treat shop: the integral-quench furnace, the continuous pusher carburizer, the endothermic gas generator, the exothermic gas generator, the vacuum furnace, the salt bath, the fluidized-bed furnace, the induction unit and all the many other types of furnaces. The new hires will be handling the company’s equipment investments.

The same will apply to the maintenance people, who may not understand the effects of inhaling atmospheres such as nitrogen, argon, hydrogen and the like. In addition to this, confined-space entry and electrical lockout procedures are important.

The storage of acid etchants practiced by companies that operate metallurgical process-control laboratories can also cause great damage and injury if not handled correctly. This applies to such acids as picral, nitric, sulfuric and hydrochloric to name but a few.

Some of the pre-cleaning chemicals can be both hazardous and dangerous to health and to equipment. I have seen cleaning spirits used to clean contactor points in an electrical control cabinet before an explosion when the cabinet is closed and power switched on to the cabinet.

I have seen the use of molten salt baths without preheating and the addition of salts to a molten salt bath without pre-heating the additive salt. The associate wonders why the salt bath has then “spit out" molten salt at them, causing a very serious burn. The work to be processed by salt bath most definitely requires preheating. The first reason is to dry off any moisture present on the surface and in blind holes. The second reason is to reduce thermal shock on the steel being processed.

Do not mix cyanides with nitrate salts. This can cause a violent explosion with serious potential of causing injury, fire and damage to property.