How to protect metalworkers in the workplace

By Anita Jaynes on 23 July, 2022

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Metalworking is a vital corner of the UK’s wider construction industry, and an excellent career path for engineering-minded. However, it also poses unique health and safety risks to its workers, by virtue of the unique mechanical and chemical processes used in the fabrication of metal products and structures. Managing health and safety can be difficult at the best of times; here are some tips for those in metalworking new to the discipline.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessments form the basis of any robust health and safety policy. They are the most effective way of identifying workplace hazards, and provide a crucial level of accountability when it comes to making changes and provisions.

In order to complete a risk assessment, you and a designated health and safety officer should tour your metalworking facility. While doing so, you will note down any workplace hazards, identify ways of mitigating the risk of injury, and assign a responsible person to implement those provisions. They could take a number of forms, from substituting equipment to providing personal protective equipment (PPE) – more on which shortly. 

Training

Arguably the single most effective route to reducing the risk of workplace injury lies in staff training and education. Training can be useful on two levels; firstly, experienced metalworkers may be well aware of the risks inherent to their work, and adept in avoiding injury, but otherwise ill-training in contemporary health and safety policies relating to handling molten and toxic materials. Meanwhile, new staff members may have less experience handling said materials overall, increasing their risk of injury.

As such, a comprehensive training strategy that upskills existing staff in relation to health and safety techniques, while also equipping new staff with the skills necessary to work safely, can help your metalworking teams work more cohesively with one another. This reduces individual injury risk, and also the risk of causing injury to another worker.

Provision of PPE

As mentioned earlier, PPE is a crucial way to improve worker safety in your metalworking plant – not to mention a legal requirement to provide. There are many different types of PPE available for different tasks and disciplines, but there are some items which are particularly important for your staff to wear for their own safety.

Firstly, staff should be wearing safety glasses to protect against flying debris or objects. Whether drilling into or deforming metal, there is a risk of metal shavings and shrapnel damaging the eyes; safety glasses lessen the chance of this occurring. Steel toe-capped boots should also be worn at all times, to protect the toes from metal products accidentally being dropped on them. 

Enforcement of Policy

Lastly, you need to tie all of your health and safety interventions together with the formation of a robust company policy regarding their adherence. It must be made clear to employees that they are required to follow health and safety procedures where they apply, and non-compliance could result in disciplinary action.