A new Health and Safety Executive campaign highlights the dangers for employees who come into contact with metalworking fluid.
Inspectors from the HSE are visiting UK manufacturing businesses who use metalworking fluids or coolants in machining processes to ensure staff are adequately protected.
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Exposure through direct contact or inhalation can cause serious health issues, including damage to the lungs and skin.
UK health and safety requirements are governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.
What does the HSE campaign involve?
The HSE is to carry out unannounced inspections of workplaces all over the UK between now and March 2024. Inspectors will be checking the level of protection for employees who are exposed to fluid or mist through working with CNC machines. This part of the Work Right to Keep Britain Safe campaign aims to make sure hazard control measures and fluid quality checks are in place.
The message is lung problems and skin irritation don’t have to be associated with metalworking fluid if the right precautions are taken. Workplace health checks are essential to identify early signs of illness.
What are the reasons behind the campaign?
Inadequate protection against inhaling metalworking fluid can cause sometimes lifechanging lung diseases including occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis, occupational asthma, bronchitis and irritation of the upper respiratory tract.
In addition, direct contact, particularly with the forearms, hands and face, can cause serious skin irritation.
What areas of compliance are businesses struggling with?
The HSE has already started its inspections and has made recommendations to some companies. On the whole, it has found the health and safety protection is adequate. However, safety inspectors have recommended further measures are needed in some cases.
The main issue found has been a failure to install local exhaust ventilation on the CNC machines to improve employee safety. Other areas of non-compliance have included not completing regular fluid quality checks and failing to provide regular health examinations.
Solutions to working with metalworking fluid
A coolant mist extraction system is an essential part of workplace safety when working with metalworking fluid. Vital to COSHH compliance, coolant mist extraction systems will reduce coolant mist levels to as low as reasonably practicable. As well as protecting your workforce, they will also protect your products.
Where your machining processes share workspace with other manufacturing facilities, an atmosphere filled with coolant mist, oil or smoke will reduce the quality of the finish – the cost of failing to make a proper assessment under COSHH and taking the relevant steps to address any health and safety issues can be an expensive mistake.
Not only can employees fall sick, but your business can be fined for failing to protect them. You may also have to pay compensation to workers who have developed a work-related illness.
Take steps today! If the HSE inspectors visit your premises, will your business premises be compliant with the relevant safety requirements?