The risks from coming into contact with metalworking fluids are well-known, yet there are still companies who do not protect their workers from developing serious health problems associated with the substance. Take the necessary steps to make sure your company is not one of them.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the cases of ill health amongst the workers and found that the measures put in place by the company to prevent or control exposure to metalworking fluid mists were inadequate. There were also failings in the company’s health surveillance provision. Metalworking fluids are often used as lubricants or coolants and are widely used across many manufacturing industries, with the dangers of breathing them in being well-known.
- Conduct a risk assessment across all machines and processes to identify where exposure could occur for your workers. Communicate the identified risks to workers and teach them how to use the precautions you put in place, such as the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Take action to minimise skin exposure. Prevent skin coming into contact with the substance when using or moving parts/tool pieces, or when undertaking maintenance, by wearing suitable gloves and using face shields.
- Prevent mists of metalworking fluid from entering the workspace. Enclose machinery operations to reduce the likelihood of mists escaping, and ensure that extraction is used to control them at source. Make sure there is a time delay on machine doors so that no one can open them before the extraction has fully finished.
- Introduce health surveillance for workers where exposure cannot be prevented. For skin, this should involve regular skin checks by a suitably trained person, and for breathing, at least an annual health questionnaire in the first instance.
- Control bacterial contamination within the fluid, as this can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Microbiological dip slides can be used to test the fluid for this purpose. Regularly check your metalworking fluids to ensure sump oil is not dirty or smelly, as this could indicate a problem that needs resolving.
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