Machine Tool Safety

As I look at the scar on my left index finger, I am reminded of how fast a machine tool can cause an injury. I was a teenager working in my grandfather’s machine shop when it happened. I was using the large drill press to counter bore holes in the cutting edge of a bulldozer blade.
The drill press was very old and was definitely not built with safe operation in mind. I am not sure why, but the procedure involved sliding the heavy plate into position under the drill bit while the bit was still turning slowly in the chuck. I was wearing gloves to protect my tender hands from the sharp edge of the blade. The bit caught my glove, and although it was turning slowly, it began to wrap my finger around the bit all too quickly.
I was able to hit the power switch but the drill continued to coast until my whole arm was wrapped around the spindle. I reluctantly called to my grandfather for assistance. He manually turned the drill backwards as I unwrapped myself from the machine.
I was very lucky to have escaped with just a cut on my finger. I quick bandage and I was back to work; this time without gloves.
Machine tools can be very unforgiving when body parts are caught on or in them. The nature of the work also brings hands and fingers dangerously close to the rotating parts. It is easy to get accustomed to the proximity and get caught.
Gloves and loose clothing can easily get caught. Neckties industrial water treatment equipment should not even get close to the machines.
Procedures need to be developed to minimize exposure to the hazards. Making sure the rotating parts have stopped before relocating the work or taking measurements is one good place to start. I have seen many experienced machinist take caliper readings while parts are being cut in a lathe. Such practices endanger the worker and the equipment.
Guards are often a huge annoyance to machinists. However, if the guards are constructed of clear materials what two things do the biota require and made to easily open and close, they can add safety without interfering with the work to be done.
When developing procedures and procuring safety equipment, it is important to work closely with the machinists to make sure that the safety equipment does not interfere with the work. Otherwise, the safeties will be bypassed and procedures overlooked when supervision is not around.
Machine tools are a part of most modern workplaces. They can be used safely and effectively if proper precautions are taken.

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