There are hundreds of safety rules for metal manufacturing environments. These are in place for good reason, as frequent injuries occur across this industry – chemical and heat burns, welding eye injuries, struck-by and crushing hazards, heat stress concerns, and countless others. A look at recent OSHA citations that have occurred across the metal fabrication industry demonstrate some of the potential dangers:
- Employees are crushed to death by machinery due to inadequate machine guarding.
- Worker skin injuries are the result of epoxy resin used to fabricate wind blades.
- Aluminum manufacturing workers experience chemical burns when draining residual sludge containing dehydrated sodium hydroxide, aluminum oxide, and decomposed metal.
- Shipyard cutting and welding results in an explosion because of work performed in an atmosphere containing flammable gases.
- Metal tool and die workers performing maintenance on press brakes, without the proper electricity shutoff, suffer amputation injuries.
With respect to the companies where these events occurred, we do not list any specific names. We only mention the above to stress why metal fabrication companies should embrace a safe metalworking environment.
Even for companies only concerned with productivity and profit, repeated violations will quickly put a company on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Besides the numerous fines leading up to this point, no company needs negative news in the new digital modern age.
We know it can be a challenge keeping up with all the online safety information floating around out there. The good news is, there are some simple rules one can apply across the board. We outline the five safety-related rules we believe everyone should remember. Before discussing further, we want to make sure you’ve got all the safety resources you need, all in one spot.
Metal Fabrication Safety Online Resources
For safety managers in metal fabrication, knowing the potential hazards employees face is critical.
Here are some resources to consider utilizing:
Excellent Online Metal Industry Websites
Five Simple Rules to Follow:
1. No Training? No Touching!
For any hazard a company’s workforce faces, there is a logical sequence of events for safety managers to follow. At MCR Safety, We Protect People! We accomplish this by providing a wide range of PPE solutions for numerous industries, including metal fabrication. We emphasize this because PPE is one of the last steps in keeping workers safe. Here is a look at the controls to follow:
Our goal is to be your go-to source for PPE. However, our first concern is that every company operates in an overall safe working environment.
If elimination, substitution and engineering controls are not possible, administrative controls should always be practiced, which includes proper training. A safe employer will never ask an employee to operate any equipment on which they have not been properly trained.
While it can be tempting to have someone fill in for somebody who’s out sick for the day, the risks are not worth it. Using a machine a worker has not be trained on can cause injuries, amputations, or even death.
2. Check First, Operate Second
Within the administrative controls, there is never a job so urgent that one can’t take the time to check the equipment and materials for safety first.
- Ensuring all guards and safety equipment are correctly in place.
- Checking the stability of all equipment and materials.
- Making sure that cutting tools are clean and sharp.
- Removing any miscellaneous tools or unnecessary materials from the workspace.
- Checking for spills (especially when welding) as well as slip, trip, and fall hazards.
- Making sure you have and are wearing the appropriate PPE.
Several of the OSHA citations mentioned above would have benefited from adhering to this rule.
3. Know your PPE
Most people are aware for the need to wear correct gloves, protective eyewear, and Hi-Viz safety gear as part of their PPE. But are you familiar with the requirements for the specific kind of work and the specific PPE required within your work environment?
Not all gloves are the same. Those designed to prevent crush injuries are not necessarily the same ones that will prevent cuts and lacerations. Of those designed to provide cut protection, there are vast differences between the light protection provided by A2 rated gloves and the heavy-duty cut coverage of a glove with A9 level cut protection.
If you aren’t clear on what kinds of hazards your gloves, glasses, and gear are designed for (and, perhaps more importantly, what kinds of hazards they aren’t designed for), you run the risk of finding yourself with severe and entirely avoidable injuries.
MCR Safety’s Metal Fabrication Industry page identifies many of the hazards faced, helping metal fabrication safety managers simplify their search for the best PPE. Just click the image below to learn more.
4. Wearing the Correct PPE is Everybody's Job
One statement echoes across the industry, “If you see something, say something.” Well, if you see someone not wearing PPE or the correct PPE, just say something to the person. They’ll thank you after the next time they require eyesight to watch their favorite football team play, or catch one of their kid’s basketball games, or sit back to enjoy a TV show.
Yes, employers are required by law to provide correct PPE gear to employees. However, that doesn’t relinquish a worker from operating unsafely. It doesn’t matter whether you’re managing a machine shop, welding, or just apprenticing; if you see something unsafe—whether that’s a practice, an environmental hazard, or a problematic piece of equipment—it’s your responsibility to speak up.
OSHA’s PPE guidebook is an excellent resource for outlining appropriate safety gear. Even though companies are required to provide PPE, employees are responsible for:
- Properly wearing PPE.
- Attending training sessions on PPE.
- Caring for, cleaning, and maintaining PPE.
- Informing a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.
Metal manufacturing isn’t like an art class where everyone is free to experiment and make mistakes. Accidents can have severe results, so do not be the one who lets it happen because safety inspection “isn’t your job.”
5. Take Notes Now, Not Later
Sometimes accidents happen and people get hurt. But, if you have followed all the hierarchy steps above, you’ve probably done everything possible to ensure a safe working environment for employees.
After an injury happens, you might be inclined to finish your work and worry about the paperwork later, but it’s always better to take notes as soon as you can. This is important because:
- The events are clearer in your mind. Everyone thinks they’ll remember all the details in an hour or two, but that’s almost never the case. Plus, if you get it all written down right away, you don’t need to worry about remembering anymore, and can give your full mental attention to the job at hand.
- The environment can change. Maybe there was a particular piece of equipment that was out of place or set up incorrectly. In a busy manufacturing environment, the odds are good that things will shift around after a while, leaving the cause of the accident a mystery. Since the purpose of the incident report is to learn from mistakes and to create a safer environment overall, this can lead to future injuries when the cause of the problem is unwittingly repeated.
- People come and go. If you have overlapping shifts of workers, the people who were present at the time of an accident might not still be there by the time you get around to documenting an accident, leaving you without the insight of other witnesses.
For those safety managers truly on top of their company’s safety program, recording near misses is preferred. It will help you identify weaknesses in your overall safety program before a tragic incident occurs.
Do you know how safe your workplace is?
The best way to measure the safety of your workplace is by utilizing our 360° Protection Program, which encompasses a process that includes evaluation, measurement, analysis, and execution to help you create the safest environment. Get in touch to learn more.
Lack of safety knowledge is one of the most dangerous hazards. Click the image above and request one of our trained 360° specialists to visit your metalworking facilities.
For over 40 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a leader in protective gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it’s on a shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there providing solutions to workplace hazards.
We Protect People!
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887. We look forward to helping you meet your safety goals!