The following guide takes you step by step through a basic workshop code of safe practice.
For further advice please do not hesitate to contact us directly.
Safety Rules for Mechanical Workshops
Mechanical workshops can be very dangerous places especially for the untrained and inexperienced. These Local Rules have been written especially for those who need to work workshop facilities talk to the workshop supervisor well in advance. Some machine tools can be operated after only a small amount of training, but others need a lot of training and experience to be operated safely. Permission to enter a workshop and use the facilities must be obtained from the person in charge. This person is responsible for ensuring that the required safety equipment is available, and that anyone granted permission to use the facilities is conversant with the safe operation of the equipment and machinery. The user must be warned of any special hazards.
A risk assessment must be undertaken on all operations or processes which may be hazardous to the operator. Generic risk assessments for common workshop processes are acceptable, and copies of these should be available in each workshop. Those using such processes must familiarise themselves with the risk assessment before starting work.
Each permanent member of the workshop staff must be supplied with a personal issue of safety spectacles or goggles. They must be worn whenever flying chips, swarf, turnings, and coolant splashes etc might endanger the eyes. Most workshops should be regarded as "eye protection" areas. Eye protection should be made available to (and worn by) visitors where necessary. All eye injuries should receive qualified medical attention.
Good housekeeping is essential if workshops are to be safe places to work. Workshop users should replace tools and equipment immediately after use and remove swarf, filings and other debris from
machine beds, workbenches and the floor as soon as possible. Tools should not be left in machine beds while the machine is running. The floor should be kept clear of obstructions, and spillages must be cleaned up immediately. Metal waste bins should be provided and used. Faulty wiring, worn or defective equipment, unsatisfactory storage arrangements and other circumstances likely to lead to an
accident should be reported.
Everyday clothes should normally be covered while working in mechanical workshops. Smocks are generally acceptable for use, provided that they are in good condition, close-fitting at the wrists and
are kept fastened at the front. Boiler suits are a safer form of clothing for use in workshops.
Prolonged contact of the skin with oil, grease, cutting fluids etc. can cause skin problems. Barrier and cleansing creams should be available in all workshops and it is recommended that they be used.
Clothing, smocks, boiler suits etc. should not be allowed to become heavily contaminated with oils, etc. They should be laundered regularly. Solvents can cause dermatitis and should not be used to remove oil, etc. from the skin. Long hair can easily be caught in moving machinery and must be
secured. The wearing of rings, dangling jewellery (neckchains and earrings etc,) is very dangerous. All jewellery should be removed before work commences. Suitable gloves should be worn when handling rough, sharp or dirty objects. However, it should be noted that the wearing of gloves near
rotating machinery could be very dangerous. Protective shoes or boots should be supplied and used by those engaged in regular heavy lifting. Danger can also strike upwards, so boots or shoes should have strong soles. Sandals and similar lightweight footwear should never be worn in workshops.
Suitable hearing protection, such as ear defenders or disposable earplugs should be worn near a source of loud/prolonged noise, particularly if it is over 85dBA. All workshops should have available clear safety glasses and ear defenders/disposable earplugs for visitors and casual users.
Every workshop should maintain a first aid box, which should be checked on a regular basis.
Storage of Materials
Proper racking facilities should be provided for the storage of sheet materials, rod bars, etc. Vertical racking requires a safety chain or bar. Where appropriate, the protruding ends of rods and the sharp corners of sheet materials should be sheathed to prevent injury.
Fumes and Dust
Areas where fumes or dust are created as part of a workshop process are subject to strict regulation, and appropriate equipment suitable for the safe removal of such fumes or dust must be used, particularly when using the following processes
a. welding soldering, burning/cutting etc.
b. Using a shot/bead blasting machine
c. Using woodworking machinery (including portable equipment)
d. Machining of ceramics, carbon or other materials which may cause a fine dust.
Electrical equipment must be kept in good condition. Only qualified staff must rectify defects in the equipment. Loose cables should be kept off the floor as far as possible and where this is not possible
cable protectors should be used. The use of cotton-covered electrical cable is not recommended in workshops or laboratories since it easily becomes contaminated with oil, grease, solvents, swarf, etc. which leads to rapid deterioration of the insulation. Machinery and appliances must be electrically isolated when not in use and when changing tools/accessories.
All portable electrical equipment used in a workshop environment is now subject to the Portable Appliance Testing regulations (more commonly referred to as PAT testing). All portable electrical equipment should be clearly marked with a sticker showing the date that it was last tested, and the date that the next test is due. This sticker is usually located on the plug. If the date shown is overdue, or if no sticker is visible, or if there is any visible damage to the cable etc. DO NOT USE THE EQUIPMENT. Remove it from service, and inform the workshop supervisor who will arrange for testing to take place.
Gangways, through and around the workshop, should be clearly marked and kept clear of obstructions at all times.
Emergency Isolation Buttons
Most machines are fitted with an emergency stop button. However in certain workshops throughout the University, provision has been made to cut the power to all machinery at once in an emergency by
means of emergency isolation buttons. Before commencing work in a machine shop, the location of any such emergency isolation button should be established. In some cases specific machines may not be connected to the universal isolation button, these machines should have a separate emergency stop of their own. The location of such emergency stop buttons should also be established before work begins.
All operations where lifting is required are covered by the Manual Handling Regulations. All workshop staff should attend basic manual handling training, and some should also attend the assessor’s course.
Manual Handling assessment forms should be completed for all lifting operations. It is however acceptable for generic forms covering lifting operations of a similar nature to be used. All
workshop staff should be familiar with the contents of the manual handling booklet.
The correct lifting aid must be used for each lifting operation. Shackles, slings,”D” rings, eyebolts hooks etc. should all be marked with the Safe Working Load and be inspected and certified annually
by a qualified University approved engineer. Unmarked uncertified or improvised lifting aids should not be used.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (C.O.S.H.H.) regulates all materials which might be hazardous to the user or persons in close proximity to the user. All substances are potentially
hazardous, and details of the nature of the substance should be obtained prior to its use. If a substance to be used is thought to be hazardous a C.o.S.H.H. form should be completed, and detailed
information about the nature of the materials attached. This information is usually available from the manufacturer in the form of a data sheet, and is often supplied when the goods are purchased.
All C.o.S.H.H. forms should be kept on file in a place accessible to potential users of the material.
Anyone using a hazardous or potentially hazardous substance should read the C.o.S.H.H. form before commencing work. It is also important to dispose of hazardous substances correctly.
Storage and Disposal of Waste Solvents
Solvents used as part of workshop processes should be disposed of in properly labelled containers as specified in the guidelines from Safety Services. The Workshop Supervisor will have a copy. Care should be taken not to mix solvents from different groups in the same tin. Waste coolant/cutting fluid must also be disposed of in the same manner. It should never be poured into a drain. Solvents, oils, cutting fluids cleaners etc. should always be kept in marked containers, and never in jars, tins, bottles or other containers.
Most workshop machinery is fitted with guards or other safety devices designed to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machine. While the Department has a responsibility to ensure that guards are in place, it must be emphasized that any person who causes an accident by willfully tampering with, removing or not replacing a guard is liable to prosecution under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Guards or other safety devices must not be removed or over-ridden for any reason without the written permission of the workshop supervisor. When it is essential that guards are removed for routine maintenance work to be carried out, it is important that they are replaced immediately afterwards. Before any guard is removed the person concerned in the removal must ensure that the machine is electrically isolated and made safe, such that it cannot be inadvertently started up
again by anyone else. The person about to use the machinery is responsible for ensuring that
all safety equipment is in position. If it fails to function correctly or loses its effectiveness, operation should cease immediately and the person in charge of the workshop must be informed.
Where it is necessary to move or remove a guard to make routine adjustments or measurements, the guard must be replaced before the machine is restarted. Stock guards must be used for parts of the material which project beyond the machinery.
A compressed air supply must be treated with respect. It must never be used for cleaning purposes (blowing dust or swarf from clothing, skin, glassware or machinery) or for ventilation purposes. A jet of compressed air directed onto the body may introduce air into the bloodstream, produce blindness or
other eye injuries or cause a burst eardrum. All compressed air lines should be fitted with safety nozzles of a type approved by the Health & Safety Executive and then may be used only under the following conditions:
(a) The operator and anyone else in the immediate vicinity must wear eye protection.
(b) They must be used only with the lowest air pressure possible.
(c) They must only be used for the removal of swarf from blind holes where no other means are available for the removal of such swarf.
(d) A compressed air supply must never be connected to a sealed container or be used to pressurise a sealed vessel, other than certified air receivers.
(e) All compressed air receivers are subject to annual inspection and certification by a qualified , approved engineer.
Sharp edges or points of tools to be carried or stored, should be protected.
Files must never be used without a handle. Wooden handles should be renewed if they show signs of splitting. Screwdriver blades should be kept in good condition. The correct type and size of screwdriver should be used for the job. Both hands should be kept behind the blade when applying pressure.
Screwdrivers should not be used as levers or chisels. Hammerheads must be kept tightly wedged in place.
Punches or chisels that have mushroomed heads must not be used. They must be reground.
Spanners -The correct size spanner to fit the nut or bolt head should always be used.
Welding - Electric Arc
Exposure of the naked skin to the heat and light radiation from an electric arc should be avoided. The radiation from the arc includes infrared and ultra-violet light. Screens or welding curtains must be used to protect bystanders from electric arc flashes. Goggles do not give adequate protection from the arc. A hand-held shield that covers the head, face, neck, wrist and hands should be used. Where both hands are needed a head shield should be used, together with gauntlets to protect the hands and wrists. Both head shields and hand-held shields must be fitted with a filter of the correct density for the power rating in use. Protective clothing should give cover from the throat to the knees.
Goggles or a face shield must be used when using a chipping hammer to remove slag and spatter.
Hoses and leads must be kept clear of hazards - sharp edges, hot metal, etc. Wheeled traffic must not be allowed to pass over them. Welding return leads must be securely connected by bolting or
clamping to prevent contact resistance. Appropriate extracts for the removal of welding and other fumes must be used at all times. Special care with fume extraction must be taken when using
shielding gases in a confined space. Argon and nitrogen tend to puddle and displace the oxygen.
Power tools must not be left on an electric-arc-welding bench. Damage may be caused if the welding earth return should become open-circuit. Work in progress or newly finished work, left unattended, should be clearly marked "HOT" with the date and time of writing added.
Welding /Cutting - Oxy-acetylene
Cylinders must be handled with care. Acetylene is liable to form shock-sensitive explosive acetylides with copper and silver salts (as well as with the metals) and certain other metals. The pressure in
any piped acetylene system must not exceed 9 p.s.i. (0.621 bar, 62 kPa) above atmospheric pressure. A heavy blow on an acetylene cylinder can ignite the contents as a result of adiabatic compression,
and the cylinder may subsequently explode unless action is taken immediately. Those responsible for the use of acetylene should be acquainted with the emergency routine to be followed should a
cylinder start to warm up. Cylinders must be used in an upright position and secured to prevent
them falling or being knocked over. When turning on a cylinder, the valve should be opened very slowly.
Whilst doing this, no one should stand in front of the gauges. Care must be taken to ensure that there are no gas leaks. Heat sources must never be allowed near the cylinders. Oil or grease must not be allowed to come into contact with the cylinder valves or fittings, especially on oxygen cylinders.
Hoses must be kept in good condition. Wheeled traffic must not be allowed to pass over them. They should be kept away from sharp edges and hot metal. Flashback arrestors should be fitted both at the blowpipe end and the gauge end of both hoses. Cylinder valves must be closed when not in use, and hoses drained of any remaining gas. Appropriate goggles, fitted with the correct filter glass, must be worn.Suitable clothing and gloves or gauntlets should be worn where practicable.
Goggles should be worn when removing flux residue or scale. Where toxic fumes may be present, an approved respirator of a type appropriate to the risk must be worn. Fume extractors should always
Vessels or drums, which may in the past, have contained flammable or toxic materials must not be cut or welded until they have been thoroughly cleaned and made safe. Dross from cutting operations should be caught in a metal receptacle. Materials being cut should be adequately supported.
Care should be taken to ensure that off-cut pieces cannot fall and cause injury or damage.
When Plasma cutting equipment is being used similar safety precautions e.g. Clothing etc. should be taken as for Oxy- Acetylene burning. When heating objects in furnaces do not enclose in sealed containers i.e. when deep case hardening components etc. unless the container has been specifically designed for this purpose. Some furnaces contain unprotected glass elements; care should be taken whenloading such furnaces.
The Woodworking Machines Regulations 1974 are recognised as offering good practical standards of safety and should be followed. Reference should be made to the Health & Safety Series booklet
HS(R)9 "A Guide to the Woodworking Machines Regulations 1974" before any work on such machines is undertaken. Some revision of these regulations specifically relating to the use of circular saws,
appears in the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Copies of WIS16: “Circular Saw Benches: Safe Working Practices” are available free from HSE books PO Box 1999, Sudbury,
Suffolk CO10 2WA Persons under the age of 18 may not operate certain machines, viz. Circular-sawing machines, surface-planing machines (not mechanically fed) unless they have successfully completed a course of training approved by the Health & Safety Executive. Reference should be made to 1.6 for details of dust extraction for woodworking equipment
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machines
Many workshops now have CNC machines of various types. As these machines are usually fairly new the standards of safety equipment fitted is high. Great care should be taken however when using such
machines, particularly by personnel who are more used to conventional machine tools. CNC machines are by definition computer controlled, and when the program is running the moving parts of the machine i.e. the table quill etc will move as dictated by the program, independent of the operator. On dedicated CNC machining centres this causes only minor problems, as the whole of the machining operation is usually confined within a guard. However conventional machine tools with retro fitted CNC controls do not usually have such guarding, and anyone not used to the operation of such machines should be made familiar with their method of operation. There are some CNC machines around the University such as wire EDM and diesinkers which are of a highly specialized nature, and have their own particular hazards. When using such machines reference should be made to the individual handbook for the machine. As with all machinery and workshop processes the risk assessment for the machine should also be read before use. CNC machines usually involve the use of computers for the writing of
programs either on the machine or more commonly on a remote PC using a CAD system. Operators using PCs are subject to the Display Screen Regulations, and the departmental assessor for Display Screens should check both the operator and the workstation being used. It might also be necessary for regular users to undergo training. Courses are run periodically by Safety Services.
Health and Safety Legislation
Health and Safety Legislation is constantly changing. At the time of writing all current Health and Safety regulations pertaining to workshops have been included. However new legislation covering a
wide variety of relevant areas may only be a few months away. The Departmental Safety Officer and the Workshop Supervisor should both be familiar with any changes in legislation which postdate this
publication. Their advice should be sought.
Remember the most important piece of advice relating to workshop safety - IF IN DOUBT ASK!