Navigating OSHA’s PPE Requirements for Machine Shops

With all the pressing, drilling, milling, cutting, and welding a machinist is exposed to, there’s no doubt that personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to keeping machine shop workers safe. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agrees, but safety regulations are not always neatly packaged and can run across various categories of rules. However, understanding these regulations and PPE requirements for machine shops is a great foundation to help prevent harm to workers. 

PPE Assessment and Common Hazards in Machine Shops

In machine shops, machinists face a variety of hazards, including exposure to chemicals, sharp edges, moving parts, pinch points, noise, and flying debris. A thorough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) assessment is crucial to mitigate these risks. This assessment should consider the specific dangers each machinist may encounter at each step of the work process. OSHA’s PPE requirements for these hazards are essential in preventing these injuries.

Some of the ways workers encounter hazards within a CNC machine shop are:

Chemicals and Liquids: Workers face dangers from harsh chemicals while cleaning or degreasing machines. Common chemicals machinists may encounter that OSHA addresses are nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, peroxide, hydraulic fluids, and cutting oils. 

These chemicals should always be stored with appropriate Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Material Handling: Carrying heavy metal parts or materials introduces the risk of sharp edges, leading to lacerations. Handling hot machine parts and workpieces can lead to burns. 

Moving Parts: Working with CNC machines, lathes, knee mills, or drill presses poses the risk of gloves, long hair, or body parts becoming caught in the moving parts.

Pinch Points: Gears and pulleys can be dangerous for hands, as they can get caught or pinched.

Punctures: Metal splinters, chips, and burrs found in metalwork can cause puncture wounds to hands, eyes, and skin.

Noise and Vibration: CNC machinery may produce excessive noise or vibrations, which can lead to hearing damage or hand-arm vibration syndrome over time without the proper ear protection.

Improperly Functioning Machinery: If a machine is broken or improperly maintained, parts that are normally enclosed might be exposed. This can lead to injury if an operator’s clothing or body parts come into contact with moving parts. Broken machinery may also expose workers to electrical hazards. Damaged wiring or controls could lead to electric shocks or fires.

Ergonomic Issues: If a machine is broken and not performing as it should, operators may have to adopt awkward postures or perform repetitive motions to compensate, leading to musculoskeletal disorders.

How Can You Address Hazards with the Proper PPE Requirements in Machine Shops?

1. Use Face and Eye Protection

OSHA is always concerned about head, face and eye protection, as these injuries can be both disfiguring and disabling. Eye protection is critical and should protect against hazards like flying debris, dust and molten metals. Safety glasses should be equipped with side shields, and specialty safety goggles are often an acceptable alternative to safety glasses. 

In addition, face protection including face shields used with safety glasses, offers an additional layer of safety but is insufficient on its own. Noise-canceling earmuffs provide hearing protection against the high decibel levels in machine shops.

2. Utilize Proper Hand and Foot Protection

Hand protection is another significant OSHA PPE requirement for machine shops.  Gloves should be chosen based on the specific task, conditions, duration of use, and identified hazards. For dealing with chemicals and liquids, options such as coated fabric, rubber, plastic, or synthetic gloves are suitable and should match the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) recommendations. 

Leather, welders, or mechanic’s gloves are recommended for handling hot objects. Material handling and operating machinery require gloves with high dexterity and cut resistance.

In the case of operating machinery, gloves should be avoided near rotating parts, as they can quickly become trapped or entangled. However, identified pinch points and puncture risks require gloves with high cut resistance and back-of-hand protection.

Your machine shop might consider providing touchscreen-friendly gloves, which allow workers to control computer panels without the need to remove their gloves, reducing the risk of injury in later activities.

Footwear, like puncture-and-slip-resistant steel toe boots or shoes, offer protection against heavy objects, punctures, hot materials and slips, trips, and falls.

3. Adhere to Safe Work Practices

In addition to wearing the correct OSHA PPE for machine shops, machinists must adhere to safe machine operating practices. 

This includes: 

  • Ensuring that machines have proper guards
  • Avoiding the adjustment or repair of machines while they are running
  • Following proper lock-out/tag-out procedures
  • Securing work and cutting tools before operation
  • Maintaining clear floors to prevent trips and falls. 

Training by a qualified person on how to use the machines safely and adherence to manufacturer recommendations are fundamental to worker safety in a machine shop.

4. Ensure Machinery is Properly Inspected and Maintained 

To mitigate these risks associated with improper maintenance or even broken machinery, regular maintenance and inspections of CNC machinery are crucial. 

Regular maintenance and inspections should be carried out by trained professionals, and any identified issues should be addressed promptly to ensure the ongoing safety of the workplace. It is also important to maintain a record of these inspections and maintenance activities for compliance and accountability purposes.

Consult the CNC Professionals at Accurate Machine Tool Services

The experts at Accurate Machine Tool Services can not only help you select and learn how to use the machines you need, but we can further help reduce safety risks and machine downtime with our maintenance and repair services. Contact us today to discuss your shop’s requirements and how our team can help.