The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for monitoring metal fabrication safety procedures in the UK; highlighting the most frequent and serious accidents, advising on methods of risk assessment and putting in place procedures to control or eliminate hazards. If you’re involved in metal fabrication, this is what you need to know.

Most common injuries

Studies by the HSE have revealed the majority of injuries (33%) sustained in metal fabrication are related to handling and carrying or being struck by moving machinery or falling objects (18%).

The most common occupational injuries and diseases include deafness, dermatitis, asthma, vibration white finger and problems with the back, arms, hands, shoulder and neck. Workshop risks of most concern include the safeguarding of machinery; the movement of people, vehicles and goods in the workshop; manual handling; noise and vibration. Substances such as degreasing solvents, metalworking fluids and fumes or dust from soldering, welding, brazing, painting and coating also pose possible hazards.

Legal requirements

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the primary legislation that covers occupational health and safety in Great Britain. The HSE, local authorities and other authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation and all other laws relevant to the working environment.

Further legislation was introduced to support the 1974 act, in the shape of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This places additional duties of care on employers and employees including principal contractors, other contractors, clients and designers.

Safety procedures

A number of stringent safety procedures must be put in place to minimise the risk of injury or employee accidents. Employers must carry out a risk assessment to determine the health and safety risks to employees and other people who may be affected by their work activities.

They must evaluate risks that can’t be avoided and establish safety measures. The findings must be documented and when complete, the assessment should be closely examined and amended if necessary.

Legislation also states that a coherent overall safety policy covering technology, working conditions, the organisation of work and all other factors relating to the working environment must be drawn up. Employees must be properly instructed on the safety policy – including undergoing training to ensure they fully understand the handling and storage procedures for the machinery.

Employees should be informed of the potential injuries in their working environment so they are aware of the risks and hazards, as this helps them to perform their duties more responsibly. It is vital that the necessary safety guidelines and hazard signs are displayed at all times in the workplace.

Protective equipment

Looking after your workforce is of paramount importance. Safeguard employees with CE-marked protective equipment to minimise the risk of injuries or health issues and guide them on the correct use of the machinery, including how to spot any prospective faults. Supply employees with the correct protective equipment such as safety glasses, ear plugs or ear muffs, flame-resistant gloves, a welding helmet, oil-resistant shoes and specialised clothing.

Finally, ensure regular inspections and equipment maintenance is completed by a professional and repair or replace any faulty equipment immediately.

Properly managed safety procedures will minimise the risk of accidents and injuries. In turn, this will boost staff morale by reassuring employees that they are working in a safe environment.