HSE: ‘too many’ metalworking firms lack key safety measures

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned that “far too many” metalworking firms lack key safety control measures to protect their workers.

HSE inspectors found that too many metalworking firms lacked key safety measures to protect workersBritain’s health and safety watchdog began carrying out targeted inspections of metalworking firms last year. They have found that more needs to be done across the industry to protect workers from exposure to metalworking fluids, which can harm the lungs and skin.

The HSE says that working with metalworking fluids is a “highly technical, specialist field” in which precision engineering is required.

However, more than half of the checks that inspectors carried out identified safety failings.

Many of the firms visited were not conducting health checks, even though health surveillance is a legal requirement where there is exposure to fluids or mist. Inspectors also found poor performance around the control of metalworking fluids in businesses that use computer numerical control (CNC) machines.

Employers need to reduce exposure by putting suitable control measures in place. These could include fitting Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) on CNC machines to carry away any harmful metalworking fluid mist.

Metalworking firms must take the right precautions

Metalworking firms must protect workers against the risk of harm to their lungs and skinNow, the HSE has developed an online quiz as “an easy way” to improve knowledge in this area as part of their ongoing campaign to protect worker safety.

They highlight the fact that around 12,000 people die each year from lung diseases linked to their past exposure to hazardous substances at work.

The HSE’s annual statistics on work-related ill-health and workplace injuries for 2022-23 also revealed that there were 19,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems caused or made worse by work last year.

Data shows that the manufacturing industry also has a substantially higher rate than average for cases of occupational asthma.

HSE Inspector Fiona McGarry said:

“It is clear that not enough is being done to protect workers and keep them safe and healthy.

“Our inspections found that there are still far too many businesses which do not have key control measures or health surveillance in place. As a result, enforcement action is being taken against these manufacturers.

“The creation of the quiz is a really easy way for people to test their knowledge about how best they should be protecting workers.”

She also said that working with metalworking fluids doesn’t have to be associated with lung problems and irritated skin, as long as employers “take the right precautions.”

She added:

“It is really important that control measures and fluid quality checks are in place to keep workers healthy. Health checks are essential to identify signs of ill-health early.”

The HSE’s round of unannounced inspections on metalworking firms is set to continue until the end of March 2024.

Vital health and safety training

Metalworking firms can seek advice and guidance from the HSEFirst Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safetymanual handlingmental healthfood safetyhealth and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to current UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. It includes training awards in Health and SafetyManaging and Supervising RiskWorking at HeightManual HandlingAccident and Incident Investigation, and more.

Based on a common sense, proportionate approach to workplace safety, training helps learners to understand the true benefits of creating a healthy and safe environment at work.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“The manufacturing industry is one of the most hazardous to work within in the UK and so it’s vital that employers and employees alike are aware of the risk inherent in their field of work and know the suitable safety measures to implement or follow to control and minimise these risks.

“We want to improve education and awareness and encourage a positive health and safety culture across firms to ensure that more and more workers are protected from work-related illnesses and injuries.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.