As employees age out of the industry and retire, there is an increased focus on recruiting new employees and developing their skills. According to Metalworking Today, companies are designating as many as 58% of their resources to recruiting, developing, and training new employees. While this focus is a necessary one, it is a forward-looking focus. Higher-ups are setting goals for the future.
While understandable, it is also important to address concerns that need attention right now -- not over the next few years. One of those immediate concerns is safety. There are several different things that must fall into place to ensure metalworking employees are safe. Start with these critical safety guidelines.
1. Wear Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Although the precise PPE may depend on the task on hand, workers may need to wear gloves, face shields, respirators, steel-toe boots, and/or flame-resistant boots. For example, one of the risks of being around metalworking and cutting fluids is contact dermatitis. Many metalworking fluids consist of harsh, caustic chemicals. That means getting them on your hands may cause your hands to swell, turn red, and itch. Hardy, chemical-resistant gloves prevent hazards like contact dermatitis and chemical burns. Similarly, a respirator with a heavy-duty filter will help prevent respiratory stress and respiratory diseases, like asthma and bronchitis.
Each workplace should establish guidelines about necessary PPE and when to wear it.
2. Inspect And Maintain Machinery
In order to protect employees, heavy-duty machinery, like the machines and equipment used in metalworking, need to be in full working order. Machines need to be inspected and maintained regularly.
Further, these machines need to have the appropriate levels of metalworking fluids and industrial lubricants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Metalworking fluids (MWFs) are used to reduce heat and friction and to remove metal particles in industrial machining and grinding operations." Without them, it is very possible that machines may overheat. Contaminated fluids may contain particles that can build up and prevent machine parts from working properly. This leads to machines running less efficiently, malfunctioning, and even breaking down altogether. Practice due caution around metalworking fluids, but do not underestimate their importance.
3. Learn How To Safely Work With Metalworking Fluids
Speaking of staying safe around metalworking fluids, the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have both released guidelines for working with and around them. To stay safe while working with synthetic oils, semisynthetic oils, or straight oils: limit exposure whenever possible, increase ventilation on worksites, maintain fluids responsibly and appropriately, and use safety enclosures for machinery as necessary. Guidelines vary according to the specific MWF, so be sure to research materials for the particular fluids or chemicals at hand.
4. Review Safety Training
Safety protocols exist for a reason. They are, in fact, responsible for keeping people out of trouble and keeping the workplace as safe as possible. These protocols stipulate what to do in the event of spilling caustic chemicals or should an employee need to force a machine to shut down in an emergency. They review how to properly and safely lift heavy objects and equipment and what to do if there is a fire.
Review safety training at least once a year. Multiple choice quizzes help reinforce information and improve recall.
Metalworking can be an intensive field. Pull out all the stops to keep your employees safe. That includes providing sufficient PPE, going over safety protocols, frequently inspecting machinery, and knowing the specifics of working with different MWFs.