According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Working with sheet metal requires attention to many safety and health issues.” Kaempf & Harris outlines sheet metal, welding, handling, and power press safety:
Each fab shop offers different safety solutions, but there are a few basics you should implement:
- An adequate supply of ABC-rated fire extinguishers should be located throughout the shop on walls for easy access. Signage or marking should be provided to ensure visibility of location.
The ground around these locations should be kept clutter-free. Fire extinguishers should not be stored on the ground, and each fire extinguisher should be inspected at least monthly, ensuring that the pressure gauge indicates adequate pressure and the ring and tie holding the ring in place are intact.
- All flammable and combustible liquids should be stored in approved metal containers. Each cabinet should be marked: FLAMMABLE―KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.
- First-aid kits should be located in the shop area and properly supplied.
- Personnel will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when operating equipment, including safety goggles or glasses, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sturdy work shoes.
- Loose-fitting clothes or jewelry shouldn’t be permitted when working around equipment.
- Hard hats should be worn when overhead dangers are in the shop.
- The fab shop should be kept free of scrap metal and trash.
- All metal should be stacked in a way to prevent it from slipping or falling.
- Lockout/tagout procedures should be used when equipment needs to be serviced.
- All compressed gas cylinders should be stored and secured in an upright position.
- Valve protection caps should be in place at all times when the cylinders aren’t in use and when they’re being transported.
- Valve protection caps and cylinder collars shouldn’t be used to lift a cylinder.
- When transporting cylinders, use a dolly designed for transportation that includes chains or other similar securing device.
- When cylinders aren't in use, the valves should be turned off.
- Cylinders should be stored away from ignition sources.
- Damaged or defective cylinders or valves shouldn’t be used.
- Hoses and connections should be inspected before use. A soap solution should be used to determine gas leakage. Matches or lighters should never be used to determine if gas is leaking.
- Gauges should be in good working order. Defective gauges should be removed from service.
Safe handling is directly related to PPE and back-injury prevention. Because metal is heavy, and the edges and corners can be sharp, it should be moved mechanically using slings, wire ropes, and cables on cranes and hoists.
If the product must be transported manually, employees should practice proper lifting techniques and ask for assistance, including other employees and storage tables, when needed.
Also, “metal is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat and will become hot quickly if exposed to the sun or other heat sources. Likewise...metal exposed to...winter...may be cold, icy, or wet. For these reasons, it’s essential that all employees working with...metal wear” leather gloves, synthetic puncture-resistant material like Kevlar®, or puncture-resistant sleeves.
Lastly, appropriate eye protection is warranted in fabrication and installation.
- Components must be designed, secured and/or covered to avoid breaks, falls, or unexpectedly mechanical energy release.
- Friction brakes must be self-engaging so only an external source can cause them to disengage. The brakes must be strong enough to stop and hold the slide at any point of its travel.
- Machines with full-revolution positive clutches must have a single-stroke mechanism. If the mechanism is based on springs, the springs have to be compression types that operate on rods or are guided within a hole or tube to avoid tangling in the clutch if they break.
- Non-slip-pad-covered pedals must be protected so falling objects can’t activate machines. The pedal return spring must follow the guidelines for the full-revolution clutches, and if counterweights are provided, the path of the weights must be enclosed.
- Spring latches on operating levers must prevent premature or accidental tripping. If more than one operating station is in use, the levers must be interlocked, so the machine is tripped only when all levers are used together.
- Hand controls must be protected to prevent accidental machine startup and constructed so both of the operator’s hands are required to trip and operate the press. If the press is a multi-operator machine, each operator must have a separate set of controls.
To learn more about OSHA’s requirements, check out their Sheet Metal PDF. You can also download Kaempf & Harris’ Sheet Metal Safety Self-Checklist Packet for more information: