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How to stay safe when working with metals

9 Min Read

Handling metal, whether on a home DIY project or in a workplace situation, is a serious business

Depending on the type of metalwork or fabrication you're undertaking, working with metal can be hot, you can be dealing with sharp edges, it can be heavy, and you can be required to use corrosive chemicals. It is, in short, very dangerous.

Possible injury risks when working with metal

Poor Barrier Safety:

If you're in a workshop environment, metal fabrication tools will generally have very specific protective barriers to prevent operator injury. It's vital, therefore, to ensure all safety guards or barriers are properly in place before using any sharp tools. If guard systems designed to protect fingers or hands from cutting or stamping machinery are not put in place properly, somebody could suffer from a serious hand injury.

Double check all guards are in place and create a physical or mental checklist so that you or anyone else using the tools knows what to do before starting work. It's also a sensible option to run regular training and refresher courses to keep safety at the forefront of everybody's mind.

Improper tool usage:

For simple jobs which do not require a high level of accuracy, or a lot of hard work, using a hacksaw to cut metal can make sense.

If you need a blade which works harder for you, a reciprocating saw can be the answer. Remember to keep the speed slow in order to save blade life. For thick metal, select a blade with around 8 teeth per inch (TPI), for metal of a medium thickness aim for 10 - 18 TPI, and for thin metal, 20 - 24 TPI is the most suitable.

A bad work area:

Depending on the type of metal fabrication you are conducting, a poorly ventilated work area could be hazardous. Likewise, if you are working in a space that causes you to exert muscular effort while in an awkward position, you could suffer from musculoskeletal injuries. As much as possible, it's also best practice to keep working areas as clean and tidy as possible. We understand that it's difficult to keep factories, warehouses, and the like spick and span at all times, but having a set routine and rules in place could literally be a life saver. At The Metal Store, we move tonnes of metal around every day, but we work hard to make sure that the working environment is kept well maintained as possible. This also helps the team be even more efficient, and makes for a better place to work.

So, it's advised to keep all work areas clean, tidy, and well ventilated. Many of our customers use our galvanised tube and clamps to make easy to build, but long-lasting safety railings and to box off dangerous areas. These galvanised railings can also be powder coated to make them stand out even more, ensuring you are doing all you can to maintain a top level of health and safety.

If you'd like to see some examples, then feel free to drop us a line and we'll help however we can.

Bad practices when handling materials:

Working with large quantities of metal sheet or tubing can mean a lot of lifting, so you need to be sure you employ proper lifting practices. If not, you could be looking at sprains, spinal injuries, and other muscle-related problems.

If you aren't able to have a dedicated Health & Safety Manager, there are lots of companies out there that offer training and support, and it's definitely worth investing in this as much as you can. Posters and info on how to lift and handle metal can be put throughout your premises, and don't be afraid to offer advice and guidance if you spot someone using incorrect technique. A good personal trainer in a gym would offer advice on how to lift weights properly, and in many ways the same should apply in a working environment when heavy items are being moved.

Top safety tips when working with metals

While it's true that working with metals can be hazardous, taking a fewsensible precautions can help minimise the risks, whether you're working on a home project, or in a professional fabrication workshop environment. Heres how:

1: Know how to be safe

Training is the key to working in any hazardous environment. As a result, you should always ensure you fully understand how to use equipment safely, what risks a project or task poses, and know any relevant safety procedures, whether for prevention of accidents or the mitigation of their effects. This applies even more-so in a working environment. Make sure everyone is upto speed and sticking to the rules.

2: Be organised

Keep all your gear, tools, and other kit in a properly organised condition. Being tidy and knowing where everything is means you can work in a safe, clean, and efficient environment. It's also good practice to keep walkways and floors clear to minimize trip hazards. This is as true for DIY projects as it is for professionalworkplaces.

3: Proper clothing and protective equipment

Using appropriate personal protective equipment is an absolut must when working with metals/ This includes safety galsses, face shields, gloves (to prevent cuts, chemical injuries, and heat burns), flame-retardant boots with protective toe caps, and respirators when appropriate.

Appropriate general clothing is also important for your safety whether you are at home or at work, so be sure to avoid loose-fitying clothing, remove any dangling jewellery like necklaces, bracelets, or long earing, and tie back long hair, especially if you're working around heavy equipment.

4: Handle everything with care

It's important when undertaking any work with metals that you understand your materials and operate with some basic safety principles in place, so here are are few simple tips:

  • Keep a tight grip on smaller metal pieces as that can help prevent cuts, and never run fingers along the raw edge of a metal cut.
  • If cutting metals, keep the tin snips deep in the cut.
  • Whenever you can, use a properly mounted vice to hold a metal piece in place.
  • Never brush potentially sharp scraps of metal into a bin with your hands.
  • Work in properly lit areas – both artificially and naturally lit if possible.
  • Don't rush. Take your time – if you hurry a job, you may have to do it again. Worse still, rushing risks injury.

In conclusion

Although working with metal is always something you must approach with care, if you follow these guidlines you should have a safe, efficient, and productive experience.

If you need help with a big job at work or a project at home, The Metal Store are here to help however we can, so feel free to call us on 01274 875 479 or e-mail [email protected]

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