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Staying safe while using Metalworking Fluids

Metalworking fluids (MWF’s) - a mixture of oils and water-based liquids are used to cool and lubricate metals usually whilst they are being machined, milled or ground. If used incorrectly or without the appropriate precautions in place, MWF’s can be highly hazardous.

Possible side effects from coming into contact with metalworking fluids include; dermatitis (irritation of the skin), asthma, bronchitis, breathing difficulties or upper respiratory tract infections. These conditions are caused when the mist, aerosol or vapour is inhaled or the fluids are able to enter the body through skin cuts and abrasions, or if the fluids are consumed.

The side effects of metalworking fluids can be serious and painful so all workers using the oils and fluids should take steps to protect themselves. These precautions include;

  • Follow the usage guidelines on product packaging.
  • The use of protective equipment such as ventilation hoods and splash guards to control splashing and misting.
  • Increasing ventilation in a room where MWF’s are being used by opening doors and windows.
  • Taking steps to protect skin such as wearing gloves, aprons, goggles or face shields.
  • Thoroughly washing skin that has come into contact with metalworking fluids- paying attention to areas such as watch straps and rings.
  • Regularly changing clothes that have become dirtied with oil and any other metalworking fluid.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in areas where these substances are being used.

For a full list of safety precautions visit the HSE metalworking safety guide.