Sheet Metal Safety Precautions: Staying Safe in the Metal Shop [Updated]
Working with sheet metal poses some safety risks. Sharp edges and heavy lifting are just two of the main hazards of working with sheet metal.
This article will summarize the main safety tips you should keep in mind when working with sheet metal in a professional workplace or a personal workshop. Make sure to follow the safety rules set in place by your specific employer, school, or apprenticeship agreement.
Common Sheet Metal Shop Injuries and Hazards
Working with sheet metal and the heavy equipment required to manipulate it can be hazardous. The most common injuries in this industry involve punctures and lacerations from the sharp edges and corners of sheet metal.
Other common injuries include burns, sprains, strains, and accidents involving equipment. Breathing in dust is another potential hazard facing sheet metal workers.
While each of these hazards is serious in their own right, they can be prevented by following a few common sense safety tips and wearing protective gear.
Top Tips for Safety
If you work in a sheet metal shop, you are likely already aware of the safety rules and tips laid out by your employer. If you are new to the industry or work on sheet metal in a personal workshop, please consider following the tips listed here. Consult your instructors, managers, and teammates for information relevant to your specific role and work environment.
- Follow OSHA guidelines (US workers) and any other federal/state/local/company safety rules. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) creates safety protocols for a wide variety of industries in the United States. The rules you learn from your employer will align with OSHA requirements, and it is imperative that you know these rules and follow them.
- Keep your workspace clean and organized. Debris on the floor and disorganized tools and equipment can lead to serious falls and injuries. Clean up your workspace as often as you can to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
- Maintain equipment to ensure proper functioning. Equipment that is not maintained correctly can fail, causing work errors and even injuries.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Lift with your legs if performing a lift independently. Ask to perform a team lift for items that are too heavy to lift yourself, or learn how to operate mechanical lifting equipment.
- Wear all proper personal protective equipment and appropriate clothing. Your workplace will supply the necessary workwear and protective equipment. When performing various tasks, make sure to protect yourself properly.
The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment
As described above, one of the best ways of protecting yourself when working in a sheet metal shop is by wearing personal protective equipment, or PPE. Recommended PPE includes: gloves, safety glasses, steel toe boots, long sleeves and long pants, and a hard hat.
Gloves are essential when working with sharp sheet metal. Cut-resistant gloves made of heavy duty material are best when working in a sheet metal shop. Gloves not only protect from sharp metal, but also hot metal during the fabrication process.
Safety glasses will help protect your eyes when doing fabrication processes that produce small shards of flying metal.
Hard hats are used in several fabrication circumstances, and are essential when working on construction sites, as many sheet metal workers do.
Steel toe boots, long sleeve shirts, and long pants will keep you protected from cuts and burns from head to toe. Long shirts and pants should fit close to the body while still providing room for easy movement. They should not be too loose, as this is a hazard when working with large equipment and sharp materials.