HSE Ramp Up Inspections on Metal Working

The HSE has just announced that they are undertaking Metalworking inspections, starting in October 2023.

From October through to March 2024, HSE will be inspecting manufacturing businesses that use metalworking fluids or coolants in machining processes.

There HM Inspectors will focus on how employers are ensuring their workers are protected from exposure to metal working fluids or mist generated by computer numerical control (CNC) machines and that regular health checks are in place.

The HSE state there are three common areas where manufacturing companies, particularly smaller companies, fail on compliance:

  • not having Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)
  • not completing regular fluid quality checks
  • not providing regular health checks for lung and skin conditions. 

The HSE has provided information on how to be prepared for an inspection.

  • Metalworking fluid is a hazardous substance that comes under COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002).
  • Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause harm to lungs and skin through inhalation or direct contact with unprotected skin; particularly hands, forearms and face. Breathing in the mist generated by machining can lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
  • To reduce exposure, you need control measures in place. LEV should be fitted on CNC machines to carry away any harmful metalworking fluid mist, which is difficult to see in normal lighting.
  • Fluid quality should be regularly checked, focusing on concentration, pH, bacteria, and contaminants. Fluid systems can become highly contaminated with harmful bacteria.
  • Where there is exposure to fluid or mist, it is a legal requirement to carry out health surveillance even when preventative controls are in place. You will need to involve an occupational health professional and workers should be encouraged to report any health symptoms that occur.

If your company has machinery/equipment or process that uses metal working fluids or coolants, make sure you have suitable and sufficient risk assessments, control measures and these are fully implemented and reviewed on a regular basis. 

To find out more:

Please see the HSE Campaign website: Machinists and metalworking fluid – Work Right to keep Britain safe for more details including:

  • Guidance on buying and using local exhaust ventilation.
  • Machining with metalworking fluids information sheet.
  • How to look after your metalworking fluid.
  • Setting up occupational health and health surveillance.

Don’t wait for the unannounced knock on the door from the HSE HM Inspector, check today you are fully compliant and have evidence to prove your control measures. Our dedicated Health & Safety Consultants are fully versed on how best to protect your business.

Learn more about our health and safety services, or get in touch to discuss how our team can support you.