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 Boat Building, Health and Injury

 First topic... epoxy poisoning

Especially someone wanting to build but with no or limited experience with these resins.... reaction to toxic epoxy should be considered right away. Don't wait till you are ailing because it appears to be cumulative in toxicity. I have seen huge ulcers in the skin of builders long after the project had been completed. They didn't have any trouble at the beginning so thought they were immune. And I have talked to people that claim they are immune. They tell of having the stuff covering them... but one guy in particular that tells me that is now suffering a variety of ailments that the doctors aren't sure what to do with. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because it affected me right away!

Your skin is not armour! It is a semi permeable membrane that epoxy resin can damage and penetrate! Never forget that. And if you want to expedite the process, use acetone to clean it off you! That stuff will make the solution soak through your skin even faster. Never use acetone to clean epoxy off your body!! Use common household white vinegar. If you think you may have gotten the stuff on you, give it a rinse with the vinegar. I keep a bottle everywhere in the shed and in my shower.

Dust from epoxy can be just as toxic! We all like to sand back bogg as soon as possible because it works so much easier but it may take several days for epoxy to cure fully. It depends on the hardener and the temperature. Once epoxy is cured it is safe to handle (but never to breath) but until then.... it is not. In my opinion there are only two kinds of respirators, 3M and the other shit. Get one and use it. Fumes from epoxy are dangerous depending on your reaction and the type of hardener and breathing in uncured dust is crazy!! Even breathing dust from cured epoxy is dangerous. Barrier cream that you can get at the local chemists/ pharmacy is helpful to prevent the itchies and some reaction but if I've been grinding a lot I douse myself with vinegar in the shower that evening. And remember that your eyes are an entry path for the toxic gases too.

Are all epoxies that bad?? No... if you think you may be susceptible, consider using "Bote-Cote" epoxy from Boat Craft Pacific. It is more expensive but it uses a non-toxic hardener. I still use every measure to keep it off my skin but the fumes don't bother me. It's a very good product for every use though it is a little cranky for bogging as it can sag. It is also safe enough to ship through the post. Other hardeners must be shipped as "dangerous goods" which makes it difficult, slow and expensive.

The best thing to do is to keep the shit off you from the beginning!. With the demands of pace required to work it before it goes off, it is hard to not get it on you without realising it. And since you are wearing rubber gloves.. YOU ARE AREN'T YOU!!!! .. you can have traces on you that you may not be aware of. I had blisters on the back of my neck that were caused by me taking off my mask to get a drink of water... took me a couple of days to work out how that happened. And the easiest place to get it on yourself is your wrists... see below...

   I used to wear long sleeve shirts and rubber gloves. What I found was happening was that my sleeves would ride low at times and pick up resin from the gloves, then ride up when I raised my arm and transfer the resin to my wrists without me realising it. Solution? Old long socks, cut off by the heel with a loop left to go over my thumb as below....
   Then rubber gloves, TWO LAYERS OF RUBBER GLOVES BTW... and the arm is protected. I use these without fail. Long sleeve shirt or short. They are also helpful against dust... and mossies.. and midgees...
    See that nasty little rash on the eye lid? Even with glasses on, a tiny drop of resin can slip by the edge. I don't even want to consider what could have happened if it had gotten in my eye.


   "Moderate Degeneration"...

YIPPEE! I'm only moderately degenerate!

The above was great news! Considering the recent symptoms and complicated by my past indiscretions.. gross dislocation of the shoulder and broken collarbone.. this was the best possible outcome. When terms go Latin, you know you are in trouble. You definitely do not want a subacronial bursa, for example. That can be more painful than a knackered glenohumeral joint.
Shoulder injuries due to ‘repetitive stress’ or accidental over extension, like losing control of a drill that jerks your arm around, can derail your project for years at a time. A ‘torn rotator cuff’ is worth from 6months to a year and a half... or more.
On the phone with Alan Lucas, I mentioned the injury, and the Latin poured forth.... “What was that?” I asked. Seems Alan picked up some Latin the way boat builders commonly do, by discussing their shoulder injuries with their doctors. So between that conversation and testing the subject around the boat yards.. I believe it safe to say that outside of epoxy reactions, shoulder injury may be the number one serious injury a builder will get, and considering the fantastic range of injuries available, that’s quite a dishonour! “Serious” is defined as any injury that stops work.
So my finding is... take a sore shoulder very seriously. Do not ‘work through it’.
The biggest problem for me was trying too hard to make up for lost time. The second biggest problem was.. the lag between the act and the consequence. This is how people re-injure themselves. You know the story: “I was feeling better so I went out to work and stuffed up, made myself worse than before”. It happened to me because it took several days for the impact of my act to manifest itself in pain/consequence. I thought I could tip toe around, get some work done and monitor the reaction and stop before I hurt myself. WRONG! I set myself back another month for 4 days of moderate progress. Not a good bargain.

An Update... that shoulder injury cost 6 months outright and is still a problem a year later. I still have to be careful with any overhead work, like carrying a piece of plywood around with a wind wanting to turn it into a sail.

 I Strained a tendon in my hand so to immobilise it I put on a rubber kitchen glove and wrapped it in fast epoxy and 450 gram DB tape and let it set...
 It worked well enough to allow me to keep going. I did this because I could not find a chemist in the area that stocked a common thumb splint!