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Machine Shop Safety

All work activities carry the potential to cause harm to our own and others’ health and well-being, but we sometimes forget how real and close to us these hazards are. Every year, a large number of people are killed at work, and an even greater number of people suffer work related injuries because they are unable to follow safe working practices.

There are particular hazards associated with machining activities, which includes both general machining activities and the use of magnetic based equipment. Some of these hazards accompany almost all types of work activity, such as handling and slips and trips. Others, such as contact with moving machinery and contact with hazardous substances are of particular concern to machine operators as they result in significantly higher rates of injury amongst these personnel than amongst other workers.


Manual Handling

Manual handling related activities are a major cause of occupational injury. Low back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries affect over a million people each year, and many of these injuries are the result of manual handling. Prior to carrying out any unavoidable manual handling activity, you should help to protect yourself from injury by following good manual handling practices. Consider the task to be carried out and the nature of the load, and be aware of your own capabilities and the environment in which you are working. In particular, machine attachments and work pieces can be extremely heavy and you should give consideration to safe manual handling practices before undertaking any job that involves lifting these items.


Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips and trips represent a significant cause of work related injury. Slips and trips can result from contamination, obstacles, inappropriate footwear, reduced visibility, the environment and people’s attitudes. Good workmanship and good housekeeping are practices that can help to prevent accidents and fires. By removing debris, swarf, packaging and other waste materials to waste skips you can contribute significantly to good housekeeping. You can also reduce the risk of slips and trips by properly routing any cables or air hoses that you use, by appropriately storing materials, tools and other equipment and keeping walkways clear, by ensuring that you always wear appropriate footwear and by taking responsibility for your own and your colleagues safety and appropriately containing any spills that you might discover.


Risk of Contact

Contact with moving or rotating machine parts is a significant hazard to personnel involved in machining activities, as well as to personnel working close by, and can result in serious injury. All personnel need appropriate training and experience to be able to use work equipment safely. Never use machinery unless you have received suitable training and are qualified and competent to do so. You should ensure that you are suitably qualified and are competent to use the particular type of equipment that you will be working on. Before you begin to use a machine, study it to make sure that you know which parts of the machine move, which parts are stationary and which parts are sharp. Make sure that all guards are in place. Remember to securely clamp both the machine and the work piece. To ensure Machine Safety make sure that you only use that piece of equipment for the job it was intended to perform. To protect others from the risk of contact with the moving or rotating machine parts, make sure that the appropriate warning signs and barriers are in place before you begin machining ensuring Authorised Personnel Only can gain access.”


Electrical Safety

Electric shock from machinery can result in death or severe burns. Additionally, serious injury can result if the person falls as a result of the shock. To prevent the risks posed by electrical hazards, all electrical equipment should carry a valid test certificate or label. Testing should be carried out by suitably trained individuals. If an electrical appliance does not carry a test label, then please, do not use it. You should also carry out a visual pre-use inspection of all machinery, if you discover a defect or problem with the machine, it should not be used and you should inform your manager.


Machine Malfunction

It is equally important to monitor the machine while it is running for possible signs of a malfunction. If you notice that the machine is vibrating abnormally, doesn’t sound right or is displaying signs of any other problem, switch it off and report to your manager.


Machine Maintenance

Ensuring that equipment is appropriately cleaned and maintained is also central to machine safety. Inspect and sharpen cutting tools, lubricate machinery and check the alignment of milling machines as appropriate. Clean machinery after each use, as a dirty machine is unsafe and is difficult to use. When you are carrying out machine maintenance, make sure that you follow the appropriate lockout and tag-out procedures to ensure that the equipment is correctly isolated and cannot be turned on accidentally.

When cleaning machines after use, ensure that the machine is switched off and that the swarf has cooled before using gloves and a brush to remove swarf and clean the machine. If you need to remove swarf from a running machine, make sure that you are not wearing gloves and use a rod to remove the swarf. Never use a rag to clean a machine while it is running. Never use compressed air to clean a machine, your clothes or yourself.


Risk of Entanglement

When conducting machining operations, it is extremely important that you take the steps necessary to reduce the risk of entanglement. Wear close fitting garments, do not wear a tie or jewellery and tie back long hair and long beards. Never wear gloves when operating a machine. If material is rough or sharp and you need to wear gloves to handle it, make sure that you place or handle the material while the machine is turned off and that you then remove your gloves before turning on or operating the machine. You should never attempt to measure a part that is moving.


Personal Protective Equipment PPE

Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is an important means of reducing the risks associated with projectile particles during machining operations. At least standard PPE with safety glasses should be worn. It may be necessary to screen the work area if projectile particles pose a hazard to individuals working or passing nearby. Only PPE in good working condition will reduce the hazards associated with your work, so it is important to remove, clean and store your PPE correctly.


Noise at Work

Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work is a significant source of occupational disease, with many people suffering deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels at work. The level of noise and how long people are exposed to noise at work both contribute to potential hearing damage. Noise can be reduced to harmless levels by using ear plugs and ear defenders while conducting machining operations, and these items of PPE should therefore be worn unless local measurements indicate that noise levels are below the level at which such action is necessary.


Human Factors

Human factors also play a role in increasing the risk of injury while conducting machining operations. Never come to work in possession of, or under the influence of, alcohol or drugs. These substances expose everyone to risks that are unnecessary and easily avoided. You should also not conduct machining operations if you are overly tired or unwell, as concentration is important to operating machines safely. Behave sensibly in the machine shop. Don’t run and don’t walk behind someone who is operating machinery as you may bump in to them.


Hazardous Substances

Substances such as coolants and other metal working fluids, hydraulic, lubricating, gearbox oils and cleaning agents can cause dermatitis if they come into contact with your skin. Fluid systems containing water or water mixes can cause bacterial infection on contact.

If you need to use these or other potentially hazardous substances, ensure that you follow the procedures outlined in your hazardous substance assessment, which may include the use of additional PPE. Try to avoid getting these substances on your skin, but if you do, pre-work or barrier creams will make your hands easier to clean. Rehydration creams will also replace lost skin oils after washing, and help to keep your hands in good condition. Wash, eat and drink away from your work area, and always wash your hands before eating, drinking or smoking. Avoid breathing in metal working fluid mists by using machining procedures which reduce the amount of mist produced, by using extraction and by using appropriate PPE. Remember that all hazardous chemicals can be identified by their warning signs, and should be stored in suitable containers that are clearly labelled and which identify the hazards associated with their use. Information on the substance as well as an assessment of the hazards associated with its use should also be available.


Magnetic Based Equipment

There are additional hazards relating to the use of magnetic based equipment. It may well be unsafe to use magnetic based equipment if you have an active implantable medical device fitted. Make sure that you have informed your manager if you have an implanted medical device and talk to your doctor about the safety of using magnetic based equipment. Particular safe working practices are necessary to prevent injury should the electrical supply to the magnetic base fail. You should label the relevant electrical supply sockets and switches to prevent someone accidentally turning off the supply.


Emergency Procedures

In the event of an emergency while conducting machining operations, isolate any machinery that you have been using and evacuate the area according to the site emergency procedures. If you are involved in an accident, seek immediate assistance. You should never operate machinery while alone unless specific lone working procedures are in place.


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