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ProAktive Health and Safety: Metal Working

The HSE has recently announced their latest initiative to begin inspecting manufacturing businesses that use metal working fluids or coolants in their machining processes. Their inspectors will focus on ensuring employers are protecting their employees from exposure to fluid or mist generated in work processes.

So, what will they be looking for?

Is there adequate local exhaust ventilation in place?

Where mist is created as part of the process local exhaust ventilation may be necessary. If LEV is not in place have the risks been adequately assessed and the risks reduced to an acceptable level by way of dwells and safe systems of work?

Are fluid quality checks taking place?

Water-mix metalworking fluid, or white water, stays in the machine and deteriorates over time. If it becomes contaminated, bacteria may start to grow.

To maintain safe and effective fluids, you need to regularly check and correct the concentration, pH and bacteria levels. This can be achieved by:

  • A daily visual and odour check.
  • Weekly concentration, pH and dipslides.

Is there health surveillance in place?

Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause harm to lungs and skin through inhalation or direct contact with unprotected skin, particularly hands, forearms, and face. Breathing in the mist generated by machining can lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Therefore, health checks such as lung function testing and skin tests may be required, depending on the type and level of your employee’s exposure.

In order to prepare for a visit from the HSE we recommend to:

  • review your risk assessments relating to metalworking practices
  • review your COSHH assessments
  • review your safe systems of work and
  • ensure you have appropriate control measures in place to reduce the risk levels as far as is reasonably practicable.

If you require any assistance,  please contact our team on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

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