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What is the Importance of Safety in Machine Shop?

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Workers are killed or injured in the workplace daily and many of these incidents could have been avoided by following appropriate safety procedures. A machine shop is a hazardous place containing welding equipment, cutting tools and various machines capable of causing serious injuries, burns, blindness, disfigurement, amputation or death. It should be the goal of both management and employees in a machine shop to control hazards in this dangerous workplace and make safety their most important goal.

The Role of OSHA

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The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 required employers to provide a workplace that’s free of hazards and to comply with occupational safety and health standards. Congress created OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) to enforce standards, provide information, training and assistance to employers and workers. In 1985, the Hazard Communication Standard Act established the rights of workers to know the dangers presented by hazardous chemicals that they may be exposed to.

Job Hazard Analysis

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OSHA recognizes that workers play a role in identifying and correcting work place hazards. Work-site injuries should be reviewed as well as “near-misses." Steps involved in each job should be analyzed to determine what went wrong, what triggered an incident and identify the consequence. Regular reviews will encourage employees to become aware of shop hazards and participate in developing safety procedures.

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Identifying Dangerous Tasks and Equipment in the Machine Shop

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In a machine shop, one simple mistake can have serious consequences. Machines are loud and dangerous; some emit toxic fumes or lack shielding to prevent splashing or leaking. Machines throw off sharp chips, metallic dust, splinters and shavings. Some machinery is poorly designed, dangerous, lacks safety features and may not shut down quickly. Antiquated machinery should be replaced and maintenance schedules enforced. Identifying hazards and poorly planned procedures that endanger workers is the first step towards improving safety.

Safety Mechanisms Should Be in Place

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OSHA has established federal standards for machine guarding, addressing specific requirements for various machines. No factory installed guards should ever be removed unless they are designed to be taken off for specific purposes. All accessible points of operation, nip and pinch points, rotating parts, flying chip or spark hazards should be guarded. This can be accomplished by using shields, barriers or distancing the machines when in use. OSHA issued a new standard in February 2008 requiring employers to provide PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) whenever necessary to protect employees from job-related injuries, illness or fatalities.

On-going Inspection and Training Programs

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All new employees must be trained in safe operation of machinery. No employee should ever fill-in or take over work with a machine unless he knows how to operate it, observing safety precautions. If assignments are changed, new procedures implemented or different machines installed, all workers require training. If hazardous chemicals are used, as in anodizing, affected employees must be trained in spill control, cleanup and containment, and uses of MSDS information. Emergency response, evacuation and first aid training is necessary. Employees must receive training about when PPE is required and how to use it. A team, which includes employees, should conduct regular site and machinery inspections, review incidents and improve procedures to decrease accidents.

About the Author

Nancy Williams has been writing about health-related topics since 1979. Her work has been published in "Prevention," "Nurseweek" and "Senior Life." Williams is a registered nurse with more than 35 years of experience and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health-care administration. She is working on a book about historic sites in the West.

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