Metal plating puts metals such as tin, zinc, nickel, chrome, silver, gold, etc. onto a surface to change or protect it. The plating method depends on the surface, the metal(s), and the finished product, but there are common hazards that workers need to know.
Chemicals are used to prepare, clean, and degrease the surface before plating. They are also used to apply the metal, clean, and polish the product. You must get training in chemical safety and proper work procedures. Read the safety data sheet (SDS) to understand the hazards and safe use of the chemicals. Know how to properly store, transport, mix, and dispose of chemicals and wastes.
Mix chemicals only according to instructions. Mixing the wrong chemicals can create poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide or phosgene. Splashes, gases, and sprays from plating, acid, and surface preparation baths can be hot and hazardous. Cleaning solvents can irritate your eyes, nose, and lungs. Buffing and brushing metals creates hazardous dusts. Long-term exposure to these materials can cause poisoning and allergies.
To protect your skin, wear long sleeves and pants under chemical-resistant coveralls, gauntlets, and/or an apron. Wear heat and chemical-resistant gloves when using chemicals or handling plating objects. Choose rubber or leather safety shoes or boots with non-slip soles. Do not tuck your pants into your boots. Wear safety goggles and/or a face shield to protect your eyes from chemical splashes, dust, and flying particles. To protect your lungs, wear the correct respirator and filter cartridges. See your doctor periodically to check for exposures.
Hot liquid splashes from plating baths and solvent tanks can cause burns. Do not drop materials into baths or add liquids too quickly. To avoid hot steam or vapors from the baths, do not reach over or into them. Allow materials coming out of hot liquid baths or drying/annealing ovens to cool before you handle them. Mix chemicals safely and slowly to avoid splashes and explosions. Wear gloves and cover all exposed skin when you work around hot baths, tanks, and materials. Think before you touch hot surfaces, equipment, and product.
Inspect and maintain your work area. Check electrical equipment and cords and tag damaged items out-of-service to prevent electric shock. Use good ventilation and dust collection to prevent fume and dust buildup, fire, and explosions. Use proper handling and storage of chemicals. Practice good housekeeping and clean up spills to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
Do not get caught and crushed by moving machinery such as hoists and conveyors. Use lockout/tagout procedures during maintenance and clearing jams. Wear sturdy work gloves to prevent cuts, punctures, and scrapes from sharp tools, sheet metal edges, and jagged metal deposits on product jigs and equipment. Protect yourself from materials hoisted overhead with a hard hat and by prohibiting transport over workers.