Avoiding Injury: 7 Risks and Hazards of Running a Machine Shop

Running any kind of business comes with implicit and explicit hazards, but machine shop owners have more to worry about than the average entrepreneur. The equipment used in machine shops can all be operated safely, but when operated inappropriately or without adequate training or protective gear, it can be extremely dangerous.

Machine shop employee

Read on to find out about seven of the most common risks associated with machine shops and how to avoid them.

Amputation Hazards

Any machine designed to cut metal, wood, or plastic will be more than capable of cutting through flesh and bone, so all machine shops pose a serious threat of amputations. Saws, shears, shaping machines, power presses, and bending machines of all kinds can all amputate fingers or even entire arms if the machines are operated inappropriately, but adequate safety gear and training can substantially reduce the risk of amputations.

Since there’s no way to completely remove risk from the equation, much as all machine shop owners would like to, it’s also important to contact Garrity Insurance about workers’ compensation policies.

Crushes and Pinch Points

Crushes and pinch points can be just as dangerous to machine operators as cuts, lacerations, and amputations. They occur most frequently when heavy materials or equipment are dropped, although workers can also be placed in danger of being crushed by improperly functioning machinery and even company vehicles.

One of the best ways to avoid crushes and pinch point injuries is to teach workers proper lifting and carrying techniques and provide them with equipment for handling heavy objects that can’t be lifted safely by hand. Machine shop workers should not be afraid to ask for help with moving heavy objects if they need it, and those who are certified to operate heavy equipment should receive ongoing safety training to make sure they don’t endanger themselves or their coworkers.

Cut Injuries

Even if a machinist does not have a finger or entire limb amputated during an equipment accident, that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t still at risk. Cuts and lacerations can also occur when machinists operate their equipment inappropriately, fail to use correct personal protective equipment, or are forced to use poorly maintained machines that could pose a risk of dangerous breakdowns.

Not all injuries that occur in machine shops are caused by equipment. Metal materials, parts, and finished pieces are very sharp and can cause cuts and lacerations if they aren’t handled properly. All employees handling parts or finished pieces made of metal should be provided with safety gloves. These gloves range from light protection to extreme protection, so make sure to buy the right ones.

Vision Impairment

Eye injuries are, sadly, fairly common among machinists. They can occur due to projectiles like burs, screws, and scraps of material or chemical exposure.

Most machine shops use a variety of caustic chemicals, solvents, and cleaning products during ordinary operation, so all workers who could come into contact with these products should be provided with appropriate eyewear. It’s also important for anyone using welding machinery or working nearby to protect their vision from UV light damage.

Worker wearing protective gear

Inhalation Risks

Inhaling chemicals, oil mist, metal fumes, solvents, and even dust can lead to serious health complications. Protecting employees against inhalation risks requires providing them with sufficient protective gear and regulating the indoor air quality as much as possible to alleviate the threat of airborne contaminants causing harm to workers.

Consider installing dust collectors, mist collectors, scrubbers, air filters, biofilters, or other pollution control measures and make sure to follow EPA recommendations regarding air safety in machine shops.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Not all health hazards to industrial machinists occur due to improper operation of equipment or inadequate regulation of indoor air quality. Some are almost unavoidable. Repetitive motions, extended lifting, and even maintaining an awkward posture while bent over a machine can all take a physical toll on machine shop workers by causing repetitive motion injuries.

Repetitive motion injuries can leave employees unable to perform their jobs and can if allowed to progress, have a dramatic and negative impact on their overall quality of life. These types of injuries make up 35% of all workplace injuries, so it’s important for employers and workers alike to be aware of this risk. Repetitive motion injuries can occur after forceful activities, holding the same posture for a long time, or overusing a muscle or group of muscles. The best way to avoid them is to maintain a healthy posture and take plenty of breaks.

Electrical Shocks and Electrocutions

Machine shops require heavy electrical loads to keep machines functioning, provide sufficient lighting, run air filters and other air quality improvement equipment, and otherwise ensure that workers can be both safe and productive. These heavy electrical loads can pose a hazard in and of themselves if machine shop owners aren’t careful, though. Ensuring that employees are not at risk of electrical shocks or electrocution is largely a matter of keeping all the wiring in good shape, which requires the help of an industrial electrician.

Even commercial electricians are unlikely to have experience working on the kind of scale machine shops’ electrical systems require. A good industrial electrician will be able to come up with a plan not just for providing for the company’s electrical needs, but for ensuring worker safety. This requires maintaining electrical components, sockets, and wiring to reduce the risk of shocks and performing routine evaluations to ensure that everything is working as intended.

The Bottom Line

Some of the dangers associated with machine shops are fairly obvious. They contain a lot of heavy equipment, many of which can cause serious injuries if operated inappropriately or without adequate safety gear. Machine shop owners can do their part to mitigate risk in this area by maintaining their machines well and providing workers with personal protective equipment and ongoing training about how to use it.

Other dangers to employees are less obvious. Injuries occur not just at machines, but also as a result of faulty electrical connections, poor air quality, inadequate eye protection, and repetitive motions. All machine shop owners should take every possible precaution to protect their workers, including taking out workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover any injuries that could possibly occur.

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