Machine shop safety is a full-time job

A lathe, a machine that rotates material against a tool that shapes it. Credit: TD

Typically at Fermilab, our machine shop injuries include cuts to hands, but more severe injuries can occur because of the many rotating parts in machines used in the shops and elsewhere. Just recently, a Yale student suffered fatal injuries when her hair was caught in a lathe. Because we don’t want something similar to occur here, we encourage everyone to remember the Take-Five campaign and stop before using a machine to review the machine operations and the personal protective equipment for potential dangers.

Fermilab has had a very safe record in its technical, machine, welding and carpenter shops, but that doesn’t mean safety is guaranteed. These shops have many inherent hazards that must be mitigated by guards, administrative controls and training. When working with machinery, laboratory employees and working visitors are reminded to keep their guards up.

Below are some general safety guidelines:

  • Follow the two-man rule when possible, and at all times in shops were it is required. Activities that are determined to be potentially hazardous may require another employee to be in the vicinity with range of verbal or visual contact.
  • Wear laboratory-approved safety glasses.
  • Use hearing protection when necessary. Hearing protection should be readily available to shop users.
  • Refrain from wearing loose clothing. Roll shirt sleeves above the elbows when operating rotating equipment.
  • Wear shop coats buttoned-up and aprons pulled up. Remove wristwatches, rings and any hanging jewelry.
  • Tie up long hair
  • Never leave a machine running unattended.
  • Lower air pressure back to 125 psi after using a specified-air tool. Airline pressure must not exceed 125 psi unless more is required to run a specific air tool. All air hoses are required to have nozzles with 30 psi restrictors on them.

Remember, never stop practicing your accident-prevention habits. Don’t allow years of experience to cause you to be lax in your behaviors.

If you ever encounter a situation you’re unsure of or have questions concerning any shop guidelines or equipment, talk to your supervisor, Senior Safety Officer or technical subject matter expert. You can also review these guides:

— J.B. Dawson