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I Forge Iron

Boy Scouts Looking for a South Shore MA Smithy

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A friend approached me about a scout troop he is working with and there is a metalworking merit badge that nine of their older scouts are trying to get. 

A portion of it requires hands-on forging basic skills like drawing, bending, and twisting. 

I want to help out, but I have concerns about liability because I am not set up with my own insurance or LLC for my forge. 

They have all signed activity waivers and whatnot, but in the event something were to go wrong and someone wanted to sue, I fear I would probably be vulnerable, even with liability waivers in place. 

Two questions: 

A: Thoughts on my vulnerability to liability in the event of a mishap?

B: Is there anyone else in the area (south shore region of Mass) who is better established who would like to help the Boy Scouts?

(caveat: they ideally want to do this thing this weekend, but could push it for a better venue). 

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I agree with Steve to talk to your home owners' insurance carrier.  This is a hobby, not for profit, and should be covered under most homeowner liability coverage policies just the same as someone slipping on the ice on your sidewalk or a friend falling off a ladder while helping you with something.

Some additional thoughts:

First, trying to supervise 9 early adolescent boys in a shop where many things are hot, heavy, or sharp or a combination of those is, IMO, way too many for one adult to supervise.  I would say that if you do it do it in 3 shifts of 3.  Also, make sure they all have proper PPE.  It could also be done as a joint activity with the parents who may enjoy it too.

The best use of liability waivers is to discourage folk from bringing legal action.  The actual legal effect is usually minimal because a person will claim that they didn't fully realize how dangerous something was and what legal rights they were giving away.  Basically, a waiver will say that a person fully understands that a particular activity can be dangerous and that they agree not to hold someone liable for the normal risks of that activity.  You cannot waiver your rights for something that the other person knew was dangerous but went ahead with anyway.  For example in the case of a stable if the owner knew a particular horse was spooky and put a novice rider on it and the rider was injured when the horse ran away no libility waiver by the rider will be valid.

At the end of the day, if you don't feel comfortable with it, don't do it.  If the fear of risk of liability outweighs the desire to help the scouts it is not worth the heartache and brain damage.  I'd probably do it myself but not with 9 scouts and 1 of you.  If there are parents or other leaders who can help you might do it in 2 shifts, morning and afternoon.  The main thing to prevent is horseplay or fooling around.  Both kids and adults can do some bonehead things out of ignorance but bad things happen more often when someone is messing about.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Appreciate the advice to talk to homeowners insurance people. 

There will/would be several other adults there, from scout leaders to some of the parents and I have already said ear and eye pro are non-negotiable as well as leather gloves (I don’t wear them, but I accept getting burned by hot scale). 

Still undecided if I am going to do it but I will check with my insurance company in the AM. 

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Post rules of the shop in several places.  The shop rules, your rules, should be hard, and fast to implement.   When broken, that person is gone, sent home, and everything stops until they leave the property.  

Keep a fire extinguisher, or several fire extinguishers, and a first aid kit handy.  If they even say ouch, then stop and look for injury.  


Rules for the shop:

Top have of a sheet of paper. 

Please list all body parts you can do without.  Right eye, finger, left pinkie toe, heating,  etc.  Have them sign their name under the list.

Bottom of the sheet of paper:

It is my personal responsibility to protect anything not listed above, and sign their name  again.

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Couple of things:

1. The BSA requires all merit badge counselors to register as adult Scouters, be approved by the council advancement committee, and complete Youth Protection Training (which can be done online). More information and the application form are available HERE.

2. The Metalworking merit badge workbook is also available online, HERE.

13 hours ago, Cavpilot2k said:

B: Is there anyone else in the area (south shore region of Mass) who is better established who would like to help the Boy Scouts?

Have you spoken with Carl Close Jr. at the Classical Blacksmithing School of Boston, in Canton? I don't know if he has any interest in hosting such a group, but he might have some good advice/information. 

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You might consider starting from the ground up, introduce them to the idea of simple side blast forges and improvised anvils that can be set up where it is covered by the BSA liability policy. 
As JHCC points out you need to get approved and certified buy BSA but that may be the best bet. 
“Be prepared” fits th idea of teaching them about the JABOD, improvised anvil and the sourcing and manufacturing of their basic tools. For a very small outlay in cash, scrounging and sweat equity they will be able to creat their own forges at home to actually practice their blacksmithing skills. 
This might even stretch your thinking if you have a well equipped shop. A Y1K forge is low cost and portable. 
Just some of the skills they can develop are wood and leather working as well as cooperation if they build simple bellows (6 board feet of lumber for the pair and a leather hand bag or skinned leather couch cushion). 
might not be what they or their scout master imagined but probably the most fitting.

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If the troop has its own permanent facility, doing such a DIY/from-the-ground-up setup also means that you wouldn't have to worry about liability in your own shop. You can also see if the local Scout camp ever does a Merit Badge Day, where students have the opportunity to work on different badges of their choice. Some friends of mine had their boys earn their Metalwork badges under a smith who brought a portable setup to their weekend campout.

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From a merit badge counselor perspective, I am not in and don't intend to be in that role. The friend who asked me to do it is the official counselor. I am merely the subject matter "expert" with the facilities to do the hands-on portion (they have already completed much of the "academic" work). 

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