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Most businesses ‘not doing enough’ to protect workers from metalworking fluids

Most businesses ‘not doing enough’ to protect workers from metalworking fluids
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) campaign launched in September last year to highlight the dangers of metalworking fluids has been surveying businesses to test their knowledge of safe working practices. More than half of those checks have since identified failings in managing the risks.

The use of metalworking fluids is a highly technical, specialist field that applies precision engineering. If not properly controlled, exposure to metalworking fluids can cause harm to the lungs and unprotected skin. Despite this, many firms inspected were not carrying out health checks.

Annual HSE statistics for 2022/23 show 12,000 people die each year from lung diseases linked to exposure to hazardous substances at work. On top on that, 19,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems reported are thought to have been caused or made worse by work. The highest rate of occupational asthma occurs in the manufacturing sector, where metalworking fluids (amongst many other substances) feature heavily.

The HSE has created an online quiz, designed to improve knowledge in this area. HSE inspector Fiona McGarry commented on the findings:

“It is clear that not enough is being done to protect workers and keep them safe and healthy.

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“Our inspections found that there are still far too many businesses which do not have key control measures or health surveillance in place.

“As a result, enforcement action is being taken against these manufacturers.

“The creation of the quiz is a really easy way for people to test their knowledge about how best they should be protecting workers.”

Inspections found poor or inadequate controls for metalworking fluids, also known as ‘white water’. The fluids were present in the form of mist vapours, which should be carried away by Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) at the source. Workers exposed must also be subject to regular health surveillance, as is required by law.

HSE inspector Fiona McGarry, added: “Lung problems and irritated skin don’t have to be associated with working with metalworking fluid if you take the right precautions.

“It is really important that control measures and fluid quality checks are in place to keep workers healthy. Health checks are essential to identify signs of ill-health early.”

For more information on working with metal, visit BrAInbox today where you can find answers to questions like How can I protect my workers from metalworking fluid hazards?

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