Metal workers drill, press, punch, cut, bend, shape, and fasten pieces of sheet metal to make construction and consumer products. The most common injuries to metal workers are hand lacerations and eye injuries from metal pieces. Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) can prevent these.
Choose appropriate work gloves for the job task. They should be well-fitted so they don’t get caught by moving or rotating machine parts. The gloves should be flexible enough to allow your hands to move freely while holding stock materials and using tools. They should be sturdy enough to protect against cuts and punctures from sharp metal edges, burrs, and pieces. Try out different pairs of gloves in different materials (leather, Kevlar, combinations, etc.) to see which one(s) work best for you.
Another way to protect against hand lacerations is to change your work practices. Wear gloves whenever you touch, move, or work with metal. Don’t run your fingers along raw metal edges. Don’t brush metal shavings or scraps into the trash with your hands; use a brush or other tool. Work in a well-lit shop or area so you can see your tools and materials. Take your time and know where your hands are at all times.
Use sharp, properly maintained tools. Don’t grip metal pieces too tightly; if they slip from your grasp, they could move forcefully and cut/puncture deeply. When possible, use a vice or jig to grasp metal pieces while you work on them. When hand cutting with snips, make long, even cuts to avoid creating metal burrs that can snag skin. When you use metal working machines, make sure they are properly maintained and that all safety devices (emergency shutoff, interlocks, restraints, guards, etc.) are working.
When you work with metal, there are many ways that large and small metal pieces can spring or fly into your eye and cause pain, damage, and loss of eyesight. Cutting metal parts that are curved or bent can result in a spring-back effect where the stock or cut piece is released and flies toward the worker. Cutting and grinding with power tools can fling small metal pieces and shavings at a high velocity toward a worker.
Make sure that you always wear proper safety eyewear when you work with or around metal. Change the type of safety eyewear you use depending on the job task. Safety glasses act as a basic barrier against large metal pieces. Use safety goggles that seal around the eyes to prevent small shavings and pieces from flying into your eye. A face shield used with goggles is ideal to protect your face from cuts and punctures from large and small pieces of metal. Where possible, consider a transparent work shield as a barrier between you and flying metal pieces.
There are other pieces of PPE you may need for safe metal work; check out the Sheet Metal Worker safety topic for more information.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.