Anyone working with machine tools will be aware of the importance of metalworking fluids. They are a vital part of the metal manufacturing process, providing lubrication and cooling, and can result in more effective tooling and protect and prolong the life of the machine.
Metalworking fluids in use, however, can be hazardous through direct contact with the skin and through inhalation as they can generate a mist during machining operations. Under poor conditions the fluid and the mist can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and lead to health problems ranging from skin disorders to serious respiratory diseases.
In 2017 the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) launched a proactive inspection programme to focus on areas of manufacturing where workers may be at risk of exposure to asthmagens and/or carcinogens generated during the production process. The HSE wants to ensure that the risks are properly managed and reduce the incidence of serious health effects from exposure. Metalworking fluids have been highlighted as a main area of focus.
Most employers will be aware that they have a duty of care to take adequate measures to protect their operators from harmful exposure. This is enforced bylaw under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002.