Safety Rules During Metal Fabrication: Occupational Hazards, Risks, and Precautions

Updated on February 14, 2018
Normgrimberg profile image

My Name is Norm, and I have a great deal of knowledge in CNC Machining. I'm also in charge of content marketing at mdaltd.ca.

Occupational health and hazard is not a new issue in the machining industry. Thousands of workers all around the world fall prey to mismanaged systems and health negligence on a daily basis. Some injuries result from constant exposure to bad working posture, like musculoskeletal problems. Other injuries are accidental and quite unfortunate, like workers losing their limbs to improperly installed machines. Sadly deaths are becoming quite common too.

Those who build metal fabricated parts, unfortunately, are one of the biggest victims of such events. They are constantly under the exposure of unreliable tools, machinery, and unsafe working conditions which often leads to mishaps. The metal fabrication process involves dealing with raw, rough and rugged metal components which are then cut, bent, welded and assembled to form desired metal structures. The main involvement of complex, engaging and intense steps like welding and cutting demands utmost safety precautions if the organization wants to keep their valuable resource alive and thriving that is.

How Can Metal Fabricators Stay Safe?

Wear Protective Gear

Certain predefined attires and accessories are equivalent to uniform for metal fabricators. Clothing pieces and protective gears such as helmets, ear-plugs, safety-glasses, flame-resistant gloves, and oil resistant shoes should not be neglected, especially when you are working on CNC machines or with hand-held CNC machining tools.

Being geared up with all the necessary protective clothing helps minimize the chances of workplace hazards by a fair amount.

Be Level-headed at all Times

Employee carelessness at work often leads to some unfortunate events. In fact, a major chunk of metal fabrication shop injuries owes their birth to a single worker’s mistake. Think about the all the short-circuit fuelled fires caused due to the supervisors forgetting to switch off the main switch before signing off for the day. Distractions, whether due to workplace noise or any other personal stuff, often lead to employees sustaining almost irreparable injuries.

One cannot control accidents, but one definitely learn from it. Mental peace is definitely a thing, and while this cannot be achieved in a day, companies can hold regular yoga-sessions or other employee health practices to keep such mishaps at bay.

Use Metal Fabrication Tools and Machinery Properly

That’s another benefit of organizing training sessions for new employees. Handling metal fabrication tools, especially the hand-held ones is no easy task. Every step involved contains a plethora of potential risks which can even take a person’s life.

How Can Machine Shops Keep Employees Safe?

Promote a Safe Working Environment

Workplace safety should be on top of every employer’s priority list. Especially if you are a machine shop dealing with metal fabrication and machined parts. In order to maintain a healthy workplace standard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has put forth a set of safety standards, which every organization needs to comply. Failing to do so, the shop can be accountable to a lot of papers and a heavy fine of course!

Just a bit of precaution (and regular inspection) can save your company from losing a significant amount of cash, reputation, and a valuable resource as well. In fact, companies have reported that conducting such inspections and training sessions have actually helped improve production operations, substantially increasing efficiency and effectiveness of the resources.

For an improved workplace safety, give attention to smaller things. Things that are often ignored, but they can lead to disasters. Like emergency exists.

Machining design need not give vocal directions every day, like flight attendants announcing the emergency exits every time. But make sure every new member who joins the team should be well aware of the number of emergency exits and where they are located. Putting up neon signs should help too. This small practice would eventually help in case of emergencies.

Focus on Employee Training

Machining industry is on a rise and this has lead to a cut-throat competition amongst all the shops and metal service providers. Everyone is giving the best to stay at the top of the food chain. But, in order to get the fullest out of their hired resources, employers are now neglecting the most important step that actually helps heaps- Training.

Every employee should receive a proper training and certification, before actively becoming a part of the metal fabrication process. This step need not be super-long, a crash-course of three to six months is enough for an apprentice level, but it is enough to make sure that your employee is knowledgeable enough to perform quality work without getting injured in the process.

There is another safety training process which should be positively included in a workplace- fire response training. Only, this should not be a singular practice. Every 2-3 months conduct basic fire emergency drills for all your employees. Such drills can be sudden, which will help ensure that your employees are ready for any fire emergencies. Also, make sure ALL your fire extinguishers are in a working condition.

Regular Facility Inspection to Ensure Operational Unit Safety

A regular and systematic facility inspection is the best way to get the most out every resource- human or machine. A ‘checklist-proper’ inspection involves meticulously going through the work process, warehousing conditions, tools and machinery, material handling, and storage, and ‘debugging’ every faulty area - tool, equipment or machinery. This also helps us know which operational areas are still lagging in following procedural and safety measures, and which ones require urgent maintenance.

Apart from tools and machines, the regular inspection should also include areas such as suspension bridges, swing, lift, girders, stairs, trusses, overhead signs, cantilever and regular use structures like that.

Tools Testing

Tool testing should be made a common practice before starting out with any project. The faulty, malfunctioning and ineffective tools should be replaced with sharper, better ones as quickly as possible. This regular checking and replacement are pretty much crucial for metal fabricators, who use hand-operated tools excessively, like a welder, or simple shears.

Medical and First Aid - OSHA Standards

Now, not every machine shop can afford on-the-clock medical experts. But every single of them can afford first-aid boxes that are set up using OSHA standards.

Being equipped with A-class first-aid supplies and personnel who are trained in using them professionally comes in pretty handy in case of any medical emergency. Have the required numbers placed at previously informed places and keep them updated.

Following instructions while dealing with certain components or machining parts is of utmost importance. Like large parts should not be carried in a certain posture, improper lifting habits can lead to sprains or even disc injuries, and long-term exposure to toxic substances, without proper ventilation, can even lead to death.

All in all, employee safety is essential and no organization should ignore it. By practicing the above-mentioned safety measures, you’ll able to easily manage the workplace health, prevent injuries and thrive every day!

© 2018 Norm Grimberg

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