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Andrew Childs, business development manager of Batoyle Freedom Group’s Metalworking Division discusses the health-and-safety issues associated with metalworking fluids.

He also provides simple steps that can be taken to reduce them and one of the latest advancements in fluid technology addressing this issue.

According to Childs, users of water-miscible metalworking fluid might be forgiven for thinking that the manufacturing dice is stacked against them when they look at current legislation and health-and-safety issues that surround their use.

COSHH, Chip and Reach all need to be contended with.

There is a plethora of ‘frees’: amine free, nitrite free, phenol free, mineral oil free, chlorine free, boron free, fume free and mist free, for instance.

The only ‘free’ not available is the MWF, which rises in cost with each new ‘free’ that comes along – all driven by health-and-safety considerations and increasing legislative pressure.

The basic principal – minimising the health, safety and welfare risks to the user – cannot be denied.

However, it is difficult for management to negotiate, particularly as the science behind these products is usually outside of their everyday expertise.

Managers should follow some of the basic rules of good practice and industrial hygiene to provide a good basic standard of health-and-safety management.

Dilution control is important with all metalworking fluids.

When using a refractometer, users should remember to use the correction factor.

They should also check dilution daily.

In addition, the pH, bacteria and fungal levels, tramp oil levels and corrosion potential should all be checked regularly.

Simple tests are available for this.

Employees should follow the instructions and training given by employers on safe systems of work when using metalworking fluids.

They must use splash guards where provided to control splashing and misting.

Employees should also minimise the production of mist and vapour by controlling the volume and rate of delivery of the fluid to the cutting edge of the tool.

They must use any enclosures or ventilation provided to remove or control any mist or vapour produced.

Employees need to allow a time delay before opening the doors on machine enclosures to ensure that all mist and vapour have been removed by ventilation.

The should report damaged or defective splash guards, ventilation hoods or other control equipment.

Workroom doors and windows should be opened to improve natural ventilation.

Employees should not use compressed air to remove excess metalworking fluids from machined parts or plant or equipment.

For skin-protection purposes, users should reduce direct contact with wet workpieces and surfaces.

They must not put bare hands into fluid sumps or use oily rags to wipe hands clean.

Employees can wear suitable gloves, overalls, aprons, goggles or face shields if necessary, although it is important to remember that gloves can be hazardous if worn near rotating machinery or parts.

They must take care not to contaminate the inside of gloves with metalworking fluids.

Employees should use a suitable pre-work barrier cream and use after-work creams to replace the natural skin oils; cover any cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings; wash regularly with soap and water; avoid using abrasive or powerful solvent cleaners; wash hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking; and pay particular attention to washing skin under rings and watch straps.

In terms of sump fluid control, employees should not discard unwanted food, drink, cigarette stubs or any other debris into sumps.

They need to tell their supervisor if they see any layers of scum or large amounts of tramp oil on the sump fluid or if it is dirty or smelly.

Other precautions include: storing personal protective equipment in the changing facilities provided or in clean storage areas; changing dirty overalls regularly and keeping oily rags out of pockets; and avoiding eating, drinking or smoking in areas where metalworking fluids are used.

Not withstanding the above, a main driver at Batoyle Freedom Group is minimising risk via new product development.

The company has recently focused on the issue of replacing neat mineral oil cutting fluids with water-miscible alternatives.

The Solmaster RD1286 is one such example as it has proved successful in arduous operations such as deep-hole boring where neat oils have traditionally been the norm.

It ticks many of the right boxes regarding health and safety, being free of oil, triazine, nitrite, amine and chlorine.

In the current economic climate, it also provides an opportunity to reduce fluid usage/costs and offers environmental benefits, according to Childs.

Batoyle Freedom

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