Work safer with metalworking fluids and oil mists
Posted 24th October 2018
Does your business or occupation involve using machines that require metalworking fluids or oil mist – do you know the potential risks to your employee’s health if they are exposed to them on a frequent basis?
No? Then this blog is one for you to read!
What are metalworking fluids and oil mists?
Metalworking fluids (MWFs) - sometimes referred to as suds, coolants, slurry or soap – are water-based fluids used during the machining of metals to provide lubrication and cooling, and to help carry away debris such as swarf and fine metal particles.
They can also help to improve machining performance and prolong the life of the cutting tool, as well as providing corrosion protection for workplace surfaces.
Oil mist may form when high pressure fuel oil, lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, or other oil is sprayed through a narrow crack, or when leaked oil connects with a high temperature surface, vaporises, and meets low air temperature.
This can happen while the fluids interact with the moving parts during the machining processes. Some oil mist particles are smaller than the eye can see but the danger is still as big!
Health risks of MWFs
If the mist from oil or MWFs (applied by continuous jets, sprays or via a hand dispenser) are either inhaled, touch unprotected skin, enter wounds or broken skin, or get access to the eyes or mouth - they could affect employee health and lead to a number of varying illnesses.
Exposure to such fluids can cause irritation of the skin, occupational asthma, bronchitis, irritation of the respiratory tract, general breathing difficulties or in extreme cases, can see individuals develop a serious lung disease called extrinsic allergic alveolitis.
What precautions should be put in place?
Before any precautions are put in place, a suitable and sufficient workplace exposure assessment should be undertaken – Euro Environmental can support you with this. This will detail current and safe exposure levels alongside any cause for concern in relation to staff health and safety.
Other areas to consider:
- Use splash guards, to control splashing and misting.
- Minimise the production of mist and vapour by controlling the volume and rate of delivery of the fluid to the cutting edge of the tool.
- Check levels of bacterial contaminationusing dip slides, or other means of measuring the level of bacterial activity.
- Install enclosures or ventilation to remove / control any mist or vapour produced.
- Inform staff of a recommended time delay before opening the doors on machine enclosures - to ensure that all mist and vapour has been removed by the ventilation before exiting.
- Ensure employees know the reporting process for any damaged or defective splash guards, ventilation hoods or other control equipment.
- Open workroom doors and windows to improve natural ventilation.
- Don’t use compressed air to remove excess fluids from machined parts, plant or other equipment.
- Conduct regular Asthma health checks.
Should an employee become ill
- Refer any employees to an official occupational health professional.
- Take prompt action after any diagnosis of ill health to identify the likely cause and ensure it is prevented or adequately controlled.
For more information on MWFs, guidance on defining the relevant exposure limits or assessments call Euro Environmental today on 0870 701 9170.