The press brake is one of the most versatile machines on the fabricating floor but, as with all heavy machinery, press brakes can be dangerous if used unsafely. Whether mechanic or hydraulic, press brakes form, punch or shear metals and other materials using high pressure which can injure workers during the operating or cleaning process, from heavy bruising to loss of limbs. At ACRA Machinery, we strive to improve worker safety in the sheet metal fabrication industry, so we’ve compiled some safety tips that can be implemented at your factory to avoid injuries unique to press brake operation.
1. Hearing loss or impairment
Press brakes are noisy during operation and may exceed safe noise intensity which can cause harm to those working near or operating the machinery. This long-term injury can be prevented by providing all workers on the factory floor with hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. Regular assessments of noise levels should also occur to ensure the level of sound is safe. If following PPE guidelines in the metal workshop still does not reduce the sound to an appropriate decibel, consider installing a noise barrier or isolating your louder machines to protect your workers.
2. Cuts from sharp sheet metal
Handling sheet metal and scraps can also cause injuries unique to the workforce of sheet metal manufacturers. Sharp materials can cause cuts and lacerations to workers when performing actions like removing the workpiece from the press brake, but this risk can be reduced with safe handling procedures and protective gloves. All workers should be equipped with appropriate protective gear like hard hats, clothing that covers arms and legs, as debris and small shards of metal can enter the air during the fabrication process, causing cuts or blindness. Workpieces heat up a lot during the metalworking process, so to prevent skin injuries like cuts and burns bare skin must be covered at all times.
3. Muscle strains and back injuries
In the sheet metal sector, moving heavy pieces of sheet metal and machinery is a necessary part of the job and one of the many things to consider when designing your workshop. Strained necks and backs, and physical stress are serious risks in the industrial sector if workers lift, push or pull bulky material or machinery incorrectly or too frequently. There are also unique physical requirements in this sector such as exerting force to use tin snips on sheet metal.
To prevent muscle strains in your workplace, begin by reading WorkSafe Victoria’s Hazardous Manual Handling Compliance Code and ensure that workers have been trained in the proper lifting techniques for difficult-to-handle objects from the ground, low levels and above shoulder height. Workers should also disclose any physical limitations and know when they are required to find a second person or appropriate machinery.
Workplaces also have legal duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without health risks. Practices to avoid muscle strains include:
- Ensuring that there are appropriate storage facilities at the correct height.
- Wearing non-slip footwear with steel caps to prevent toe damage.
- Implementing non-slip mats across even work surfaces.
- Ensuring an appropriate workspace layout.
- Providing and encouraging mechanical aids such as trolleys.
- Ensuring there are enough employees and time for the task with job rotation where necessary.
4. Crushes and amputations
Crushing and amputations are arguably the scariest and the most severe press brake injuries. No workplace wants these injuries to occur to their workers and in Victoria, there is a range of safety systems and standards in place that machinery must comply with to prevent this injury. Permanently fixed guards are there to prevent workers from accessing any pinch or squash points. An unguarded press brake risks workers’ hands from becoming too close to moving parts or entering the hazardous trapping space.
There is a range of press brake guards available including two-hand controls which force the operator to maintain a safe distance during the sequence mode or a light curtain mounted close to the dies which stop the machine upon disruption. Physical perimeter guards that are permanently fixed or require tooling to be removed, particularly to prevent reaching the dies from the back, also help stop workers from becoming too close to the moving parts of the machinery and injuring themselves.
Outside of physical guards and engineering controls, there are also safety procedures in place to prevent a worker from accessing moving parts while the machine is operational.
- Slip mats should be in place to prevent accidents.
- The working area should be left clean and tidy to prevent tripping hazards.
- The operator should not be on their phone or otherwise distracted from the press brake.
- An operator should always be monitored by a highly trained supervisor.
- The press brake must never be left unattended while operational.
- Maintenance should be performed by a qualified professional.
When cleaning or repairing the press brake, lock out all power supplies, add chocks to prevent the ram from falling and isolate the controls to prevent accidents and entanglements with the machine. Remember to adequately train operators in all safety and harm minimisation procedures and ensure your press brake is regularly inspected and maintained to comply with all safety requirements.
Are you looking for a new or used press brake in Melbourne?
ACRA Machinery is a one-stop-shop for all your sheet metal machinery requirements including new and used press brakes from trusted brands. Browse our online catalogue or chat with one of our specialists to find the right bending machine for your sheet metal fabrication needs. We also offer on-site repair and maintenance services so you can keep your machines in prime condition.
To get in touch with our expert team, give us a call today on 03 9794 6675 or fill out our online contact form.