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4th October 2023

HSE Embarks On Metalworking Inspections In October

man welding round window frames

What’s Happening?

From October until March 2024, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be inspecting manufacturing businesses that use metalworking fluids or coolants in their machining processes.

Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause harm to the lungs and skin through inhalation or direct contact with unprotected skin, particularly hands, forearms and face. Breathing in the mist generated by machining can also lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Targeted Inspections

Inspectors will be focusing in on how employers are ensuring workers are protected from exposure to metalworking fluid or mist generated by computer numerical control (CNC) machines and that regular health checks (known as health surveillance) are in place.

HSE has warned that there are key 3 areas where manufacturing companies, typically fall short of compliance, these are:

  • Not having suitable Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)
  • Not completing regular metalworking fluid quality checks
  • Not providing regular employee health checks for lung and skin conditions.

Be prepared…

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) requires exposure to metalworking fluids by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact to be prevented where reasonably practicable, or failing that, adequately controlled.

Metalworking fluids are mostly applied by continuous jet, spray or hand dispenser and can affect employee’s health. To reduce exposure, you need controlled measures in place. Suitable LEV should be fitted on CNC machines to carry away any harmful metalworking fluid mist, which is difficult to see in normal lighting.

The bacterial contamination of fluids and associated machinery and pipework should be regularly monitored and controlled. Direct means of measuring bacterial contamination should be used in conjunction with other checks on fluid quality, e.g. fluid concentration and pH. There are several ways of doing this, but microbiological dip slides are a simple way of checking bacterial contamination.

Where there is exposure to fluid or mist, it is a legal requirement to carry out health surveillance for employees – even when preventative controls are in place. You will need to involve an occupational health professional and workers should be encouraged to report any health symptoms that occur.

The primary aim of the inspection initiative is to ensure workers’ health is being protected. Although as you may expect, if any health and safety breaches are discovered, HSE will take enforcement action to make sure workers’ health is protected.

If you are an existing client and have any queries regarding metalworking fluids or HSE inspections within your workplace then don’t hesitate to call our H&S advice line today on 0300 303 5228.

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