Advanced Precision Machining

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Machine Shop Management – Are You Running a Safe Precision Machining Facility?

[February 4, 2014] Imagine for a moment the following scene playing out on a CNC machine shop floor - a trusted and experienced employee accidently leaves a hand tool inside a CNC milling machine cabinet. He reaches in to retrieve the tool and unknowingly, a co-worker proceeds to power up the machine resulting in serious bodily injury. As a result of modern design and built-in safeguards, thankfully such worst-case scenarios are rare. At our CNC machining company however, what we more oftentimes have to remind ourselves of, and what we preach and practice, is basic machine shop safety. This generalized information is not new, but the high speed machining industry is experiencing an influx of new CNC machinists, and among more experienced workers at times, complacency sets in. At Advanced Precision Machining, we have an extensive safety and occupational health program, including some very basic operator and machine tool safety guidelines we'd like to share with readers.

Running a safe machining facility starts and ends with the health and safety of all employees. No matter the size of operation, every machine shop has a variety of equipment running, each with potential hazards. From a CNC machine operator perspective, our general health guidelines focus on:

Operator Safety

1. Eye Protection:

Milling and turning machines produce metal chips, dust and shavings known in the industry as swarf, which can become ejected causing eye injuries. In addition, mills, lathes and routers contain cutting tool assemblies made of hardened steel, which have the potential for breakage while rotating at very high speeds. Modern CNC machines are outfitted with guards and are  fully enclosed, but unfortunately accidents still occur as chips and other material can escape. ANSI-approved eye protection such as impact protection safety glasses or goggles with side shields should be worn at all times, including over prescription eyewear.

2. Noise Protection:

High intensity noise is an ever-present companion on the machine shop floor, with levels sometimes reaching 100 decibels or more. A good rule of thumb is if you can't carry on a normal conversation without raising your voice, then sound is approaching unsafe levels. Prolonged or repeated exposure can result in noise-induced permanent loss of hearing. Therefore, OSHA-approved hearing protection such as earmuffs or soft, moldable ear plugs must be worn.

3. Respiratory Protection:

In addition to the unsafe and not recommended practice of processing toxic or flammable materials, a precision manufacturing facility unfortunately produces a number byproducts that, when inhaled, have potential health impacts. Grinding dust, machine tool coolants, lubricants and certain heated metals all produce fine particles, fumes and mist. When working without proper ventilation such as fans and ducting, or vacuum systems, or if you are unsure of a material being machined, it is advisable to always wear a respirator.

Machine Tool Safety

Because specific safety instructions vary depending on the machine, the following represents a general, partial list of top 10 guidelines we feel are inherent to working with any CNC machine, taken from the ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health & Safety. For specific machine information, refer to your operating manual.

  1. Be sure all operators are trained in all machine tool functions including the operation of emergency shut off functions

  2. Never operate a machine without doors closed and functioning locks

  3. Keep all electrical panels and control cabinets secured and locked to limit access and accidents

  4. Do not attempt to modify your equipment in any way

  5. Never enter the machine enclosure, unless for maintenance or cleaning, and then only if the machine is entirely powered off

  6. Never operate controls with your hand on or near the tool spindle

  7. Always remain clear of the tool changer during power up, power down and while operating

  8. Always stop a machine before cleaning a part or taking measurements

  9. Never lubricate a machine while it is in motion

  10. Never remove chips, filings or shavings with a bare hand to avoid cuts

Want to learn more about machine shop safety, or do you need help with an upcoming project? We're here to help and are happy to discuss your machining needs. Call us at at 303.776.1910 or send us an email.

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About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised on the emerald isle of Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he partnered with his friend and colleague, Kirk Tuesburg, currently APM’s machine shop manager, together launching what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. 

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