The Dangers of Safe Cracking

Despite what you may have seen in the movies or on television, most safes do not open or “crack” easily or quickly. Most safe work is difficult, time consuming, and requires expensive, specialized equipment. In this blog post I will briefly highlight what makes this type of work difficult and why it can be dangerous.

1. Knees, Shoulders, Back & Neck

Because most safes are either secured to the floor or embedded in the floor, a safe technician spends most of his time on his knees when servicing or opening a safe. This can lead to knee trouble down the road, if precautions like wearing knee pads are not taken. To make matters worse, higher-end safes use what is called hardplate (e.g. carbide matrix, relsom, maxalloy, and etc.) to protect bolts and locks. On occasion a safe technician will be called upon to drill through this hardplate. This can be very bad for his shoulders, back, and neck. To mitigate the effects of this type of drilling, some safe techs invest in lever and magnetic drill rigs.

2. Eyes

Because more often than not, a safe must be opened by drilling a minimum of one quarter-inch hole, there is always the possibility that a sharp piece of metal can land in one’s eye. For this reason protective eyewear must always be worn when drilling into a safe.

3. Falling Doors

Because many burglars do not trouble to educate themselves in safe construction, they mistakenly think that cutting the hinge pins will allow them quick and easy access to a safe’s contents. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good safe tech will always look to see that these pins are still intact, and take the necessary precautions if they are not. If he does not do this, he risks serious injury when he goes to swing the door.

4. Black Mold

Because safes are often hidden in basements, a safe tech must always be prepared to guard against mold exposure. This is usually done by wearing a mast, or respiratory. The minimal type of respirator that should be worn to protect against mold particles is an N-95 particulate respirator.

5. Lead Paint

Because up until 1978 lead paint was used in the manufacture of safes, safe techs that regularly drill older safes must take precautions not to inadvertently inhale or ingest the dust that comes with drilling through old paint. The same precautions should be taken here as above. The minimal type of respirator that should be used to protect against lead dust is the 3M 7500.

6. Asbestos

Because some older fire safes were insulated with asbestos, a good safe tech will always be prepared to protect himself from asbestos exposure when drilling into an older safe. This is done by wearing a respirator. The minimal type of respirator that must be worn to protect against asbestos fibers is a half-face respirator fitted with a class P1 or P2 filter cartridge.

7. Gas

Because some older burglary safes were fitted with aftermarket glass tubes or bottles of tear gas either inside the door or directly behind the lock, an experienced safe tech will know how to avoid exposing himself to this gas when called upon to open such a safe.

8. Explosives

Finally, because once upon a time safe manufactures deterred would-be burglars from breaking into their safes by hiding vials of nitroglycerine in the doors of their safes, a well informed safe tech will know this and will use the utmost caution in opening such containers.

Though safe cracking has been romanticized by Hollywood over the years, the truth of it is that this type of work is usually slow going, physically demanding, dangerous, and – if one is not careful – lethal!