There is no shortage of industries that have a need for metal fabrication services. Whether the demand is coming from construction, architecture or other key market, metal fabrication plays a significant role. In order to meet the needs of such a variety of industries, fabrication shops must use machines properly and practice good techniques to keep production strong.
Machining can be a very unforgiving process. Not only can using the wrong techniques hurt company productivity, but even more importantly, it can hurt employees. Practicing machining safety is not only critical to the safety of the machinist, but other shop personnel as well.
Follow the rules
When proper safety practices aren’t followed around machinery, minor injuries can occur to machinists, such as cuts and scrapes. More importantly, bad practices can lead to major injuries, including loss of fingers, limbs and even death. There is also the potential for long-term health complications when using this type of heavy-duty machinery. For example, breathing in dust, smoke and oil mists during the machining process can cause many kinds of health issues.
Oil mist exposure can cause respiratory problems. Bronchitis, asthma, cancer and other issues can develop in the lungs of exposed employees. Additionally, skin is often exposed to oil mist, which can lead to dermatitis, eczema and acne. To prevent this from happening, a fabrication shop should ensure that an efficient ventilation system is installed in the facility.
Health issues can also occur without using heavy machinery. Welders may encounter carbon monoxide or other toxic substances while working on the project. Other potential welding hazards include working with heavy objects, experiencing extremely loud noises, being subjected to flash and welding in awkward positions. All of these can cause injuries or have long-term effects on breathing, hearing and eyesight.
In order to be safe around machinery, shop workers can learn best practices at trade schools or from more experienced machinists. These experienced co-workers know the machine and its capabilities and dangers.
Through proper training, workers can understand the machining process and learn the machine and its limitations. Expecting someone to work on a piece of equipment they have not been trained on can lead to disaster. Training cannot be a one-time occurrence either. Regardless of how much experience a machinist has, a single training session is not sufficient and training should always be ongoing.
Part of that training should include an assurance that all employees are adhering to strict safety protocols. It is beneficial for the company to require plant supervisors or safety directors to hold regular safety training sessions that stress the importance of following safety guidelines. This can help reduce the risk of injury in areas of the shop that contain potential hazards.
Adhering to strict protocols establishes and promotes a safety culture throughout the shop. Without emphasizing the importance of safety, accidents and injuries can happen. While making sure deadlines are met is important, it is also imperative jobs are not rushed to completion. Taking shortcuts can lead to mistakes and mistakes can lead to injuries. Projects should begin with plenty of lead time to prevent this from happening.
Keeping machine guards in place and in good condition is another practice that can keep people safe. Safety guards can be found on most fabrication equipment to prevent injuries. An emergency shutoff switch and sensors to keep employees safe are also available. Poorly maintained guards are among the most common causes of injuries in a shop setting. Some guarding mechanisms help prevent a worker’s fingers from entering the metal trapping space of a cutting guillotine. If these safety guards are improperly installed, there is an increased chance of a hand injury or finger loss.
Some shops even remove safety measures like these to save time, but this obviously makes the equipment much more dangerous for the people running it. Any potentially hazardous piece of machinery should be inspected on a consistent basis to ensure the necessary safety measures are in place and working properly.
In addition to utilizing machine guards, it is important to have proper fixturing of the workpiece. Fixturing systems provide secure mounting points for workpieces. This supports the workpiece in the manufacturing process so each piece maintains conformity. Most fixtures are connected to the floor of the work area or to the machine body, which basically makes them immobile. Making these systems immobile helps keep those who are using them safe.
Employees can also be at risk if they are lacking personal protective equipment or using equipment that does not fit correctly. Individuals in the shop should be required to wear safety glasses, short-sleeved shirts and steel-toed work shoes. Hairnets and hair clips are also helpful, so loose hair doesn’t come in contact with the machine. Some companies also have no-jewelry requirements as an additional safety measure.
Keeping machines well maintained and clean is also essential. It is no secret in the industry that equipment is more likely to run at maximum capacity and last longer if it is cleaned weekly, if not daily. However, this can help with safety as well. During the cleaning process, issues such as broken switches, clamps, or damaged or missing guarding can be discovered and repaired.
Machinery is not the only risk in the shop when it comes to cleanliness. Poor housekeeping can lead to injuries. Dirty floors can get slippery, and any garbage on the ground can create a tripping hazard or cause spills.
Using best practices will keep employees safe and production moving along. When mistakes are made, injuries or worse can occur. That is why it is so important to learn from experts who know the machines, use the proper techniques and have well-maintained equipment for proper machining safety.