Safety in the workshop is the responsibility of everyone using the facilities. The machine tools and hand tools are all potentially dangerous equipment. Personal safety should be part of every operation performed in the workshop.
No work should be undertaken in a workshop by academic staff, research students or undergraduates unless they have been given permission by a skilled technician, who should make sure that all safe working practices are adhered to, and they are under supervision at all times. There are certain workshop operations considered too dangerous for unqualified persons to undertake i.e. certain grinding and milling operations.
Untidiness in a workshop is a common cause of accidents. Objects dropped and left on the floor may cause people to trip and then to put out their hands for support into the dangerous parts of machines. Accumulations of paper or dripping oil (especially if absorbed by sawdust) are major fire hazards. Gangways must be kept clear, as must safety exits.
Machine guards must remain in place at all times during machine operation. They should only be moved when it is necessary to change the workpiece or cutter and then only when the machine is switched off.
Eye protection should be worn at all times in a workshop because even when you are not using a machine there is a danger of swarf or cutting fluid from a machine being thrown over the guards and damaging your eyes.
Suitable clothing must be worn. Loose and flapping clothing can at any time become entangled in a moving part of a machine, even though the machine is properly guarded. It is best to wear overalls with buttoned up cuffs, so there is less risk of being caught up on cutters or other parts of the machine.
Strong shoes with hard soles are advised, as there is always sharp swarf on the floor that will cut into soft-soled shoes. Definitely no sandals! Long hair must either be tied back or kept in place by wearing a suitable hat.
There is always the danger of non-mechanical accidents. For example, badly fitting spanners may slip with disastrous results to the knuckles, and it should always be ascertained that a spanner fits well before putting full load on it. A loose fitting file handle may result in the spike at the end of the file being driven into the hand.
All tools used should be checked before use to see if they are in good condition and if uncertain, advice should be sought from a qualified technician. When handling sharp or heavy metal objects, safety gloves or gauntlets should always be worn. The edges of sheet metal that have been sheared can be as sharp as a razor blade.
In conclusion, much of the safety in workshops is common sense. Wear clothes that give protection and safety glasses or goggles to protect the eyes. Do not rush any operation in the workshop and always check with a qualified technician before starting any work, take their advice and always be aware of others working nearby.
If in doubt, ASK!
Contributed by Terry Stubbings
This page was last updated on 7th October 2008