5 Safety Tips When Handling Sheet Metals
What are some safety tips for handling sheet metals?
- Use The Proper Equipment
- Test Your Tools
- Use The Right Lifting Technique
- Clean Up After Handling
- Stay Organized
Sheet metal is a type of processed material that is widely used in several metalworking applications. Its wide range is due to its malleable and easily manipulated nature, allowing it to be easily formed into various shapes. To work with this material, several measures must be made so that workers can avoid accidents and injuries. So, what are the safety tips for handling sheet metals? Read on to know about what precautions you should be taking before using this metal material.
Use The Proper Equipment
Handling any metal without the proper equipment can cause injury. Metals are good conductors of electricity and heat, and unfinished edges can be sharp to the touch. If held by unprotected hands, it can burn and cut the skin. Thus, all metalworkers are advised to use personal protective equipment (also known as PPE) to protect against these possible injuries.
Though the recommended PPE will change depending on what the sheet metal will undergo in your manufacturing procedure, there are some staples. Generally, workers will need to be equipped with gloves, safety glasses, and hard hats at the least when working with metal. It is also recommended that they work in steel-toe shoes, long sleeve shirts, and full-length pants.
For some operations, workers will be exposed to flying metal debris. This debris comes from chipped-off pieces of metal, which can damage a person’s eyes if they come into contact with it. Therefore, safety glasses are also a staple for these operations. Depending on how much debris the process creates, some places will also need a full face shield to protect workers. An example of these processes is metal grinding and welding.
Test Your Tools
Before you fire up your power tools and your machines, take the time to test and inspect each one. It is advised that all the tools being used for sheet metal processing are regularly inspected to ensure that they work properly. This helps workers spot faulty tools before anyone potentially gets hurt.
Metal manufacturing and fabrication machines need a lot of maintenance as they are subjected to a large amount of stress each time they are used. Make sure that you are keeping a regular maintenance schedule to check if all your tools are performing well. Knowing which tools need maintenance or replacement improves the productivity and safety of the workplace.
Use The Right Lifting Technique
Lifting and moving heavy parts is a common thing when working with sheet metal. However, improper lifting techniques can cause several kinds of back and neck injuries. When moving these materials, knowing the right way to lift them goes a long way.
Before attempting a manual lift, check if the weight is something that you can carry on your own, or is it heavy enough that you would need assistance. Team lifting is always a viable option for workers, and having assistance from another pair of hands is something that can make moving heavier pieces safer for everyone.
When moving the materials either on your own or with a team, remember to lift with your legs rather than your back. That means instead of bending over and then hinging upwards, you bend your knees till you can comfortably reach the sheet metal, then push up with your legs. Try to keep your back straight while carrying, and keep a slight bend to your arms.
Lifting with a team requires proper communication. Make sure to count down before lifting or lowering the sheet metal to make sure everyone is coordinated when moving the weight. Additionally, inform the others if there are any changes in direction or potential hazards on the way while transporting the material.
Another safety practice you should observe when lifting as a group is to not have anyone walking backward. Instead, hold the material on the sides and have the group walk parallel to the material. This way everyone can still see where they are going.
Clean Up After Handling
A lesser-known hazard of working with sheet metal is the presence of metal particles. Metal particles can enter the body through inhalation or ingestion, and in some cases skin penetration. Workers can bring these particles into their homes unknowingly, and expose their friends and family.
The danger to this metal dust is its effects on our bodies. These tiny fragments can accumulate in our lungs, which increases the risk of respiratory illness and other diseases. Typical symptoms of overexposure are fatigue and weakness, anemia, and damage to the kidney, lungs, and brain. When it accumulates at high levels, metal particles can be fatal.
Thus, practicing good hygiene during and after work plays an important role in staying safe. Proper hand hygiene should always be practiced during break times at work, and when leaving the factory floor. Keep in mind that eating, drinking, or even touching your face with unwashed hands can put you at high risk of inhaling metal particles. Additionally, your equipment and workwear should be regularly washed or cleaned after use.
While practicing safety procedures can greatly minimize the risk of sheet metal injuries, these procedures will be less effective if the work floor is messy and disorganized. Creating a clean and organized work environment is crucial to keeping everyone in the workplace safe.
Clearing up clutter has more benefits than keeping the area tidy and organized. Leaving material and debris scattered around creates potential tripping hazards. Additionally, unorganized materials also make the workflow of the operations less efficient as things are not where they should be.
Remember to keep workstations and walkways clear of any debris or excess materials. Another thing to look out for is spills. So when you see a spill, make sure to clean it up immediately. If someone slips on liquid, they will lose their balance, which is especially dangerous if they are carrying heavy materials.
Also, keep the habit of storing unused sheet metal in between tasks to keep the workplace more organized. This prevents the material from piling up near workstations or in walkways. Keeping sheet metal properly stored also helps for more efficient operations. However, always be cautious when storing the metal. Make sure that when stacking sheet metals, the pile is not too big or uneven as it may end up falling over.
Safety is something that you can’t afford to overlook when working in any industry, and this is especially true for those working in manufacturing. While working with metal materials and fabrication techniques requires you to be extra cautious, knowing the right safety tips for handling sheet metals can help you to protect yourself against the common dangers of the industry.