Safety in the workplace is always one of the first considerations when managing your business or your place of work. Metal fabrication is one of the most dangerous areas of work, with workers frequently being the victims of accidental cases of burns, falls, cuts, scrapes, and sometimes fatal injuries. Therefore, ensuring the safety of yourself and all those around you is definitely a top priority. Here are a few potentially dangerous areas that must be considered, along with the safer ways to deal with them.
Manual handling covers many different duties in metal fabrication, which is why it is the most common type of work that causes injuries. These tasks result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as well as have people deal with hazardous materials. Some common manual tasks (along with their respective safer methods) include the following:
- Unloading Raw Materials – Use purpose built cranes or forklifts with trained vehicle operators and magnetic lifters. All operators must have proper certifications.
- Transport of Heavy Material on the Floor – Use bridge and gantry cranes with pendant control or remote access to stop workers from forcing themselves into awkward postures that can hurt their bones. Overhead cranes must be rated by the correct SWL (safe working load).
- Die Handling – Powered mechanical lifting aids such as overhead cranes, hoists and manipulators can help move and position the often extremely heavy dies.
Hand Tool Usage
The most general definition of a hand tool is a type of tool where a person is required to apply the force by either holding it in place or manipulating the tool itself. Doing this can result in a multitude of injuries, with factors including but not limited to muscular effort, awkward wrist positions, uneven contact pressure on the body's tissues and joints, and a wide grip span in the hand that can cause a tendon injury called "trigger finger."
To lessen the injuries sustained from hand tools, the most important rule is to make sure the tool fits the person. The tool must match the task the user is doing, the workplace has to be big enough to move comfortably while handling the tool, and it must be well maintained. A few common injuries from hand tools (and how to solve them) include the following:
- Angle Grinding – Serious injuries by angle grinding are caused by foreign materials in the eye and the kick back from the grinder, as well as deafness from the noise. To minimize these, make sure to use an adjustable jig rotator to move the part that allows the person to undertake the work in his most comfortable position, and separate workers with individual booths for the most possible space.
- Welding – You must consider whether the worker has general ventilation and all the protective equipment or not, and make sure the worker isn't forced to move in any unexpected position that may cause bodily distress. A fixed portable extraction system is best for dealing with the fumes, individual booths provide all the space they need, and auto darkening helmets as well as PAPR (positive air powered respirator) systems installed in the mask provide the latest developments in welding safety.
The environment of the plant is an important factor in whether or not the overall factory is safe. A few things to consider include the following:
- The location of the designed raw materials and their delivery areas
- The storage of raw materials is near the designated area of the start of production
- The workflow of production is lineal and straight, making it clear for those not acquainted with your system
- Blind spots are minimized, so that no unfortunate accidents are caused by workers not seeing one another. Straight corners must be rounded or separated by see-through panels
- Segregation between areas for forklifts and pedestrians, so workers don't risk accidentally walking into an active forklift
Ensuring the safety of your employees and yourself takes priority over all other considerations to keep a happy and profitable environment.