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Although modern metal fabrication shops may use computer numeric control (CNC) technology to guide machines that cut or stamp metal, there is still plenty of opportunity for injury. Some processes utilize dangerous chemicals or create hazardous fumes. Workers in a metal fabrication shop should familiarize themselves with these tips for staying safe in a metal fabrication shop.

Wear Protective Equipment

Shop owners should inform workers of all safety requirements and regulations and provide or require appropriate personal protective equipment. This may include eye protection, face shields, gloves that protect from heat or chemicals and are resistant to cuts, respirators, and hard-toed, fire-resistant boots. Shops can be loud, so shop owners might also require ear protection. Employees should also wear hardhats or welding helmets as required.

Dress Appropriately

Loose clothing and hair can get tangled in equipment. Tie hair back and don’t wear jewelry in the shop. Snagged clothing or jewelry can imperil fingers and limbs. The powerful equipment in machine shops can even cause amputations.

Stay Alert

A moment’s distraction in a metal shop could result in cuts, burns, amputation, or even death. Metalworking machinery must often be operated in a precise sequence to work properly, and conducting yourself on autopilot raises the risk of injury.

Use Machine Guards

Metalworking machinery comes with safety guards and emergency shut off equipment. Some have sensors designed to prevent injury. Tampering with or removing these safety features just to save time puts workers at risk.

Insist on Proper Training and Accountability

No one learns how to properly run metal fabrication equipment in a single, brief training session. Shop owners should provide ongoing training and create a safety culture in which employees are held accountable for knowing and following safety protocols.

Perform Regular Maintenance

Poorly maintained equipment can malfunction or perform incorrectly, creating errors and defects. Fabricated metal that has been formed by cutting with saws or lasers, or metal that has been stamped or bored with holes, will always display some imperfections. Rough edges can cause cuts, and metal burrs left over from heat cutting create potentially dangerous imperfections in fabricated metal parts. Vibratory deburring machines can remove these imperfections but also require training for safe use.

Lift and Haul and Slip and Fall

Metalworking means moving a lot of heavy materials around. Workers should be trained in proper lifting techniques to avoid back and neck injuries. Similarly, maintaining a clean shop that’s free of slip and fall hazards is critical to worker safety.

Safety in a metal fabrication shop is a team effort, and it starts at the top. Shop owners and managers demonstrate that they care about workers by maintaining and enforcing strict safety protocols and offering ongoing training.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.