Sheet metal workers make, install, and maintain heating, ventilation, and air duct systems (HVAC); metal building equipment (roofs, siding, gutters, downspouts, counters, and back splashes); signs, and vehicles. Factory and fabrication shop workers cut raw materials, then form and fasten them into end products for installation at construction sites.
Varied sheet metal tools, tasks, and shop, factory, and construction locations require specialized training in hazards, equipment, and safe work practices. Get training on chemical safety, building hazards (asbestos, lead, and mold), ergonomics, good housekeeping, vehicle movement, and electrical safety. Provide extra training and good supervision to apprentices new to the job.
Sheet metal stock can be heavy to move and awkward to maneuver, so use mechanical lifting devices, get help with the load, or break the materials into small, manageable loads. Use good lifting techniques—keep your back straight and let your legs do the work. Work gloves and coveralls prevent cuts and slices on your hands and body from sharp edges. Sturdy boots protect your feet from crush injuries if you drop heavy stock or finished pieces.
Mechanical saws and lasers cut large pieces of stock to correct size and shape. Mechanical shears, presses, and stamps form the pieces. Inspect mechanical devices before each use and make sure that moving blades and parts are shielded. Use lockout/tagout and perform regular maintenance to ensure safety. Don’t wear jewelry, baggy clothing, or loose, long hair around moving machinery. Never disable the safety interlock devices designed to keep your hands and body parts out of harm’s way. Safety glasses protect your eyes from dust and flying metal pieces during cutting, machining, and fastening.
Hand, rotary, or squaring shears and hacksaws finish fabricated pieces at the shop and installation site. Use the correct tool for the job and sheet gauge. Keep tools sharp so they work correctly. Wear flexible, protective gloves that allow you to grip tools and materials. A hard hat and hearing protection may be required on a construction site.
For welding and soldering seams and joints, use low-emission materials in a well-ventilated area. A respirator can protect your lungs from fumes. Use power tools for rivets, drive nails, or other fasteners according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Treat powered fasteners with respect because they can cause serious injuries if accidentally or improperly discharged.
Duct, pipe, and tube installation as well as roofing, siding, and gutter work can all require work at heights. Examine each job task and site to determine the safest access method such as ladder, scaffold, or scissors lift, and if fall protection is needed. Watch for unguarded and open roof and floor openings, common fall hazards for sheet metal workers.
Maintain your overall health and fitness level because sheet metal work can require crawling into tight spaces and areas for installations. Standing, climbing, bending, and squatting may be required for long periods. Keep your work close to you and rotate your tasks as much as possible to avoid fatigue. Some job sites do not have available elevators, so plan how you will get your materials to the worksite safely without overexertion, strains, and sprains.