3040 – 18 – Summary
A lot of metalworking processes and machines need metalworking fluids to lower heat and friction during the process. Your employer is required to provide you with access to information and training about all the chemicals in use or encounter in the workplace. MWFs are used safely every day, but when they aren’t used safely, accidents can happen. The four major classes of metalworking fluids include straight oil, soluble oil, semi-synthetic fluids and synthetic fluids.
There are a lot of factors in play that contribute to a substance in MWFs health risks. Common contaminants in MWFs are microorganisms like bacteria, molds, fungi, and byproducts. These materials can be harmful to health, especially if inhaled, ingested, or contacted on the skin or eyes. It can be increased if PPE and engineering controls aren’t properly used. Other factors like sump level, possible reactions between the MWF and other chemicals or materials on the worksite.
Dermatitis and acne are typical skin disorders resulting from MWF contact. Some long-term effects are lung disease, asthma, and cancer. The better way to reduce exposure to harmful chemical is to create better engineering controls like safer, non-aggressive MWFs and proper ventilation in place. Some common ventilation systems have dedicated and local exhaust systems. A properly maintained and dirt-free worksite helps to limit MWF exposure.
When working with MWFs properly require the fit, selection, and usage of PPE. Eye protection is needed in all applications; some require face shields, chemical protective clothing, and respirators. Keep food, drinks and cosmetics away from the work area and recognize signs that a fluid is unsafe for usage. This includes checking fluid for floating material, low sump level, too much foam, smelling bad, or viscosity change. If you have been exposed to MWFs, NIOSH recommends that your employer start a fluid management occupational safety and health program to keep all employees safe.