Machine Shop Health Hazards-October 2014

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

October 2014

IN THIS ISSUE: Machine Shop Health Hazards

When inspecting hazards in a machine shop, most safety professionals look at unguarded points of operation that can cause cuts, contusions, burns, and amputations. However, in addition to the physical hazards – from lathes, mills, saws, drills, presses, press breaks, grinders and more – machining operations can also cause preventable occupational illness.

PARTICULATES. Abrasive wheels used in grinding operations can generate particulates from both the object being ground and the metal from the wheel. Particulates are not considered to be hazardous material, but can damage the lungs in large quantities. If the object contains metals such as Beryllium, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel, or Zinc these dust particles can be extremely dangerous to worker health. For general dust control, most bench grinders can be attached to a Shop-Vac. Grinding machines that use hazardous materials should be equipped with a vacuum dust collector with a HEPA filter. Whenever possible, use coolant when grinding. This can also eliminate or greatly reduce particulates in the air.

FUMES. Hazardous fumes can be produced by metals that are heated above their boiling point by the action of machinery. Certain alloys contain hazardous metals that can be harmful and cause short-term effects such as irritation of the lungs, metal fume fever, or chemical dermatitis. Others have cumulative effects that can cause permanent damage. The use of coolant can prevent metals from becoming a fume and ventilation systems can collect airborne metals that are missed. Dust collection systems that are used for particulates may not be appropriate for fumes.

COOLANT & MWF. Although important in controlling hazards, coolant and other metalworking fluids (MWFs) can cause adverse health effects through skin contact or inhalation. OSHA has a PEL of 5 mg/m3 for oil mist which can be harmful to the lungs. All MWFs may contain additives such as stabilizers, biocides, dispersants, dyes, and odorants. Problems develop when good hygiene practices are not followed or when fluids are not properly managed or maintained. Health concerns include skin irritation, allergic contact dermatitis, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and, occasionally, breathing difficulties such as bronchitis and asthma. Although rare, some workers have contacted hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) from improperly managed fluids. HP is an allergic-type reaction in the lungs that may be caused by exposure to certain microbial products. In rare cases, oils are heated high enough where the cutting tool works on metal work piece to form polynuclear hydrocarbons (PAH’s).

NOISE. Noise hazards are common in a machine shop. High frequency and high intensity noise can cause permanent loss of hearing. Control and reduction of noise can be achieved through proper maintenance and replacement of old machinery. Other methods include the use of alternate tooling, isolation, installation of sound absorbing materials, mufflers, shields and barriers, and enclosures, and the use MWFs.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE). PPE in a machine shop may include gloves, safety glasses, face shields, aprons, protective clothing, chemical boots, safety shoes, and hearing protectors. It is important to select the right PPE for the job. Gloves must not be worn near the point of operation or the ones provided cannot grabbed by the action of the machinery. If noise hazards cannot be eliminated, the use of ear muffs, ear plugs, or both, can be effective.
Machining operations present many dangers to the operators. A thorough job analysis will consider both the health hazards as well as the physical hazards of the operation.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact¬†us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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