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Establishing Safer, More Sustainable Foundries

March 2021

Beyond providing information to the foundry industry that addressed day-to-day production and quality issues, the young American Foundrymen’s Association (precursor to AFS) was keenly aware of the health, safety and environmental issues that were or would soon confront its rapidly expanding member base. 

In 1907, the AFA established the Committee on Prevention of Accidents in Foundries. Its main purpose was to perform a comprehensive accident survey of the metalcasting industry. The study was conducted from July 1907 to July 1908 with the results published in the 1908 edition of AFA Transactions.

In 1908, Thomas West, AFA’s ninth president, started the Anti-Accident Association in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. 

In October 1913, the AFA Committee on Safety was renamed Safety and Sanitation (and later Fire Prevention). By 1916, the committee published the Proposed American Foundrymen’s Association Safety and Sanitation Code. 

In 1936 the Society hired its first full-time staff person specifically to deal with health, safety and environmental issues. E.O. Jones was engaged to head up the newly created Safety and Hygiene Section of AFA, and the intensive work of developing information and practices for various aspects of the internal and external environments of metalcasting operations continued unabated.

In the middle 1940s, the Committee on Conservation of Hearing of the American Academy of Ophthalmology tackled the issue of industrial noise and its effects on workers. As a result, an AFA subcommittee was formed on noise in industry to research and evaluate the factors concerned. Later, a committee was formed in 1953 under the AFS Safety, Health and Air Pollution to study noise in the foundry. 

In 1951, the Society, at the request of the National Castings Council, started a new Safety, Health and Air Pollution 10-year program. Committee members emphasized the need for directing the program to small foundries’ problems and two representatives from this category were appointed to the steering committee, one for ferrous metals and another for nonferrous. The program developed and published six pioneering manuals:

  • Engineering Manual for Control of In-Plant Environment in Foundries (1955)
  • Foundry Air Pollution Manual (1956)
  • Recommended Safety Practices for the Protection of Workers in Foundries (1957)
  • Safe Practices Manual for Welding, Cutting, Brazing, Soldering and Similar Operations (1957)
  • Foundry Noise Manual  (1958)
  • Radiation Protection Manual (1959)

In response to the increasing breadth and complexity of environmental regulations from federal and state authorities, the AFS Environmental Affairs Division 10 was created in 1971 with a separate committee for Air Pollution, Water Quality/Solid Waste, Occupational Health, Noise and Safety.

More recently, AFS has worked with industry to establish sustainable business practices which includes increased recycling and reuse, greatly improved energy efficiencies and safer plants. AFS held its first energy-saving seminar in October 2006 and began recognizing members that have exemplary safety records with Millionaires Safety and Safe Year awards. The society also published a Beneficial Reuse Guide for the industry in partnership with EPA. 

Over the past two decades, AFS has held dozens of webinars, seminars and other events and published many papers, guides and articles that show environmental responsibility and improving the bottom line aren’t mutually exclusive. In its 125th year, AFS will be holding its 33rd Environmental Health & Safety Conference. Today, the active EHS Technical Division continues to lead the industry in sustainable best practices.