Working in the metal fabrication industry sometimes requires workers to engage in potentially risky activities in order to properly perform their work, including cutting and welding metals and manufacturing of ferrous materials. For safety managers in metal fabrication shops and facilities, understanding the potential hazards that employees are exposed to in their line of work and doing a risk assessment to identify risk hazards is critical to ensuring their safety and health.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires businesses to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of every employee. In the metal fabrication industry where working conditions can be challenging and cause accidents, injuries and chronic illnesses, safety precautions need to be practiced at all times. Below, we’re going to discuss some of the top OSHA safety questions that safety managers in metal fabrication should ask themselves.
What Should I Know About Safe Equipment Use and Machine Guarding?
Safety equipment use and machine guarding have over the last few years taken front and center stage when it comes to metal industry safety concerns. In fact, these two areas topped the list of OSHA violations, costing the industry nearly $3 million. Moving machine parts can cause severe injuries, such as amputations, crushed fingers or hands, blindness and even burns. Safety managers must ensure that proper safeguarding of machines is done to prevent injuries.
Any fabrication equipment, function and process that may potentially cause injuries should be safeguarded. A close look at the primary violations in the industry centered on basic issues such as the provision of safeguards that meet the latest OSHA requirements for design and construction. Other violations included the use of hand and portable powered tools like welding machines, abrasive wheel machinery, mechanical power presses, mechanical power transmission apparatus and other equipment.
The question of what should be done to ensure safe equipment use and machine guarding is one of the top OSHA safety questions that safety managers deal with. Ensuring the safe condition and use of all metal fabrication equipment is the responsibility of the employer. Those in charge of safety must ensure that employees are aware of the OSHA regulations that pertain to the use, specifications and maintenance requirements of the tools and equipment that they use. Proper guarding must be provided and employees trained on safe equipment use.
How Can You Prevent Electrical Hazards in the Workplace?
Many electrical hazards in the metal fabrication industry are due to carelessness and complacency. The possibility of an electric shock is one of the biggest risks encountered by welders and other workers directly working with equipment and tools that are powered by electricity. Touching ‘live’ electrical components, such as the electrode and the workpiece can easily result in an electric shock or serious burns. Electric shocks can kill, either directly or when a worker falls when working at height.
Considering that electrical hazards are the second biggest OSHA safety questions in metal fabrication, it’s vital for metal fabrication companies and safety managers to put in place proper safety measures and train their employees on how to deal with electrical-related fabrication work. Lack of proper training, carelessness, faulty equipment and shoddy workmanship lead the way in causing the majority of electrical-related accidents and injuries.
Welders and workers exposed to electrical hazards in the workplace must never become complacent about the electrical hazards associated with their work. Safe working practices should also be followed at all times and procedures put in place to ensure regular inspections and strict compliance. Proper installation and maintenance of welding equipment must be done by qualified personnel and workers trained on the proper use of welding equipment.
What are the Right Material Handling Procedures?
Material handling is another OSHA safety concern in metal fabrication. Citations in the industry have mainly included violations in the use of overhead and gantry cranes, powered industrial trucks and slings. When it comes to moving, loading and installing metal fabricated products, various material handling equipment and machines are used to make the work easier and more efficient. However, workers who are not careful with material handling equipment often end up getting injured.
Safety managers have to train employees and provide the necessary knowledge needed when it comes to the use of material handling equipment and ensure that safe work practices are established at the metal fabrication shop or facility. All safety procedures must be followed across all stages of metal fabrication, from receiving raw materials to fabrication processes and warehousing of finished products.
What are OSHA’s Safety Procedures Regarding Personal Protective Equipment?
Over the years, a lot of emphasis has been put on the need for employees in the metal fabrication industry to wear the right personal protective equipment. What PPE gear is required? Are their specific regulatory procedures to follow? These are some of the OSHA safety questions in the industry. OSHA requires every employer to determine what PPE is necessary for their workers and each task after carrying out a thorough workplace risk assessment.
Even when workers use their own protective equipment, employers are required by law to be responsible for providing the correct PPE gear and ensuring proper use, care, maintenance and storage of the protective equipment. Some of the key areas of concern when it comes to personal protective wear include respiratory protection, eye and face protection, head, foot and hand protection as well as the proper selection and provision of PPE gear for workers.
Here’s a general overview of OSHA standards regarding personal protective equipment:
- A hazard assessment must be done across the workplace to identify workers at risk
- The right PPE must be selected based on the assessment and employee requirements
- Employees must be trained on the proper use of PPE
- Regular inspections must be done to ensure compliance procedures are being followed
- Proper equipment care, maintenance and storage must be prioritized
- Ongoing employee training on changing safety dynamics and updates must be done
- Safety managers can seek OSHA assistance in implementing a workplace safety program
Employers must provide hand protection gloves for welding and other metal work, head protection in the form of helmets and hardhats, foot protection to avoid slipping and foot injuries, eye and face protection in the form of safety glasses and full-face shields, ear protection in the form of earbuds and earmuffs to prevent hearing loss and respiratory protection in the form of facemasks and other respirators to protect workers from toxic gases, dust, airborne chemicals and other particulates that could be inhaled when working on metal.
How Should Toxic and Hazardous Substances be Handled?
Exposure to toxic and hazardous substances is a great concern in the metal fabrication industry, with companies being fined over $250,000. Violations have largely been in the area of hexavalent chromium safety. Exposure to toxic metals can adversely affect the health of workers. Other metals that pose a health hazard to workers in metal fabrication include Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Lead, Asbestos, Mercury and others. Are there OSHA safety regulations regarding the question of toxic materials?
OSHA provides specific regulations and safety requirements for each of these toxic and hazardous substances. Metal fabrication companies must identify the types of toxic materials that their workers could be exposed to when working on different types of metals and fabrication processes. Once the risks have been identified, proper safety and health measures must be put in place to protect workers against any exposure. This means investing in approved respiratory equipment that must be worn by workers at all times in areas of exposure.
What are the Safety Procedures for Welding, Cutting and Brazing?
Welding, brazing and cutting are some of the most dangerous tasks in commercial metal fabrication. The processes create fumes, some level of radiation and other hazards. OSHA has in place a full set of safety regulations that detail the best safe work practices and procedures that should be followed by employees. They include:
- Operating in a safe working environment with detailed work procedures
- Clear oversight of what should be done and how it should be done
- Welding, cutting and brazing equipment maintenance
- Safe storage of welding and cutting gases and supplies when not in use
- Safety procedures for each type of welding and metal fabrication process
- Proper PPE, fire protection, ventilation and health protection procedures
Just like other OSHA safety questions, the answer to avoiding OSHA citations lies in understanding OSHA requirements in the first place. After that, metal fabricators can now develop suitable safety programs and train employees so they can fully understand the workplace hazards and what they must do to protect themselves. Developing the right safety program is key to reducing accidents, injuries and health complications in the workplace.
Looking at recent OSHA citations in the metal fabrication industry, company owners and management should have a better understanding of where to focus their compliance efforts. Hazard communication in the workplace is also a key OSHA requirement for every employer. To ensure your workplace is safe, it’s important to conduct regular inspections and maintenance procedures to repair and replace any faulty equipment or machinery.
Metal fabrication procedures involve several well-known safety risks and concerns but by understanding these key OSHA safety questions and managing the risks within your workplace will help prevent injuries and boost employee morale. It’s also important to support employees by helping them develop a better sense of situational awareness, safety communication skills and instill a positive safety culture.
Leading the Way in OSHA Safety Standards Compliance
At Metal Supply, a LADBS fabricator company in Los Angeles, we prioritize on worker safety and have the most comprehensive safety program to protect our employees. Our mission is to continue leading the way in offering quality metal fabrication and steel supply solutions, backed by exceptional turnkey service and customer service. Talk to us to discuss your metal fabrication needs.