How to cut metal; a focus on safety
Most metal working projects will require cuts to be made during fabrication. There are many different cutting methods and equipment options available ranging from simple hand tools to industrial specialist machinery. Although all methods will result in a cut being made through metal, it is really important to choose the most appropriate process for the specified task. By understanding how the tools work, and how and when to use each method, it will be easier to make the right choice first time- saving time, money, and of course, maintaining workshop safety.
A note on safety.
When performing any task involving metal, safety should be a priority. Always follow the safety procedures laid down by workplace protocols and any training courses attended. If there are any concerns relating to workshop safety, these publications are available as free downloads from the HSE website; ‘Health and Safety in Engineering Workshops’ and ‘The safe use of compressed gases in welding, flame cutting and allied processes’.
Personal Protective Equipment should never be overlooked, even if you think the task will be quicker to complete than hunting down your safety equipment, it is never worth the risk. PPE can help protect from burns, cuts, and metal chips becoming embedded in skin and eyes.
PPE should include;
- A full-face welding mask for plasma cutting and protective eyewear as a minimum for all other cutting methods.
- Ear defenders as the noise from machinery can permanently damage hearing and has been linked to the onset of tinnitus.
- Sturdy foot protection, no-one really wants hot sparks flying in their shoes- reinforced toe boots make sense when cutting metal in case the offcut falls.
- Long sleeved tops and full-length trousers to protect skin from hot sparks and metal chips travelling at high speed.
- Protective gloves- make sure these are fit for purpose; holes and splits will offer no protection and if they don’t fit properly, they will restrict your movement.
- Always ensure tools are well maintained; check switches, cables, and consumables for signs of damage or wear and ensure blades are sharp- a dull blade is more likely to slip and jump on the metal surface which can damage the metal and lead to injury.
- Replace consumables, such as blades and cutting discs, once signs of heavy use appear.
- Always ensure you disconnect tools from the power supply before replacing the blades or performing any adjustments to the settings.
- Keep the floor and surfaces free from clutter, trailing flexes, and debris.
- Take your time- Rushing about in a workshop environment can increase the risk of trips, slips and injury.
- Wipe up spills immediately to reduce the risk of liquids coming into contact with electrical items.
- Take extra care when handling flammable substances.
- Do not let children into the workshop unsupervised, if they are watching an adult work, they should also be provided with suitable PPE.
Following the above suggestions should help keep you safe while cutting metal in the workplace or home workshop.
To find out about all the different types of metal cutting processes and guidance on how to perform them, please click on the links below.