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As a health and safety professional in a machining environment, you must consider dangers in and around the shop to ensure the workplace and employees are safe and productive. CNC machines themselves pose numerous hazards due to the amount of moving parts, size, high-speed movements, and sharp tools in the equipment. Fortunately, there are solutions and ways to mitigate the risks so employees can continue to work safely.

Types of Hazards in CNC Machine Shops

In machine shop environments, there are three different categories that hazards can fall into: mechanical hazards, health hazards, and other hazards.

Mechanical Hazards

Mechanical hazards involve moving machine parts and ways that a worker’s body could come in contact with those parts. The most common types of mechanical hazards found in machine shops include the following:

  • Single rotating parts, like shafts or couplings, which have a risk of snagging or entanglement.
  • Two or more rotating parts working together, such as pulley drives, rollers, or exposed gears, create nip points and pinch points hazard.
  • Parts that slide or swivel, including sliding mills or robotic arms, create shearing or crushing hazards.
  • Parts that can rupture or fragment, such as in grinders, pose a risk of impact injuries.

In order to combat mechanical hazards, it is important to ensure the proper safeguards are in place such as barriers, two-hand controls, interlocks, proper training, and providing the correct personal protection equipment (PPE) to employees.

Health Hazards

Along with potential physical injuries caused by moving parts, workers could have exposure to hazards through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or absorption through the skin. The most common health hazards found in machine shops are from toxic or corrosive chemicals. These chemicals can irritate, burn, or pass through the skin. Employees could also be at risk of inhalation of airborne substances such as oil mist, metal fumes, solvents, and dust. The heat, noise, and vibration of a machine shop can take a physical toll on employees. Lastly, repetitive motion, awkward posture, extended lifting, and pressure grip can cause soft tissue injuries to employees.

Dealing with health hazards in most cases requires PPE, proper storage, and appropriate training for handling and transporting harmful chemicals, and heavy objects. For inhalation risks, it is important to install the proper dust collectors, mist collectors, and other pollution control equipment that can help to alleviate any airborne matter that could harm workers. In environments with extreme temperatures, requiring mandatory hydration and cooling breaks will help to reduce fatigue.

Other Hazards

Several other dangers exist in machine shops. It is important to identify and mitigate the risks around these hazards. Slips and falls around machinery, injuries from unstable equipment, and faulty or ungrounded electrical components all pose significant dangers. Fire risks are also present in machine shops and depending on the type of equipment or machining operations, CNC machines  could also be at a higher risk of fire. Many of these other hazards are addressable with good housekeeping measures and having processes for regular equipment inspections to keep the shop floor and employees safe.

For slips and falls, ensuring proper signage during maintenance, requiring suitable footwear, and keeping the floor free of debris is essential. Securing and stabilizing equipment will help alleviate the risk of injuries, and making sure electrical components and sockets are functioning properly will help protect from electrical shocks or electrocution.

When it comes to fire protection, it is important to consider if you should install CNC fire suppression to add an extra level of protection to the shop in addition to the building’s fire protection system.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard ANSI B11.0-2015 Safety of Machinery: General Requirements & Risk Assessment will help identify these hazards so you can come up with solutions to keep your shop and staff safe and productive.

Learn How to Address Fire Risk in CNC Machines


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