From October until March 2024, HSE will be inspecting manufacturing businesses that use metalworking fluids or coolants in their machining processes.

Inspectors will be focused on how employers are ensuring workers are protected from exposure to fluid or mist generated by computer numerical control (CNC) machines and that regular health checks are in place.

There are 3 areas where manufacturing companies, particularly smaller companies, commonly fall down on compliance:

  • not having Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)
  • not completing regular fluid quality checks
  • not providing regular health checks for lung and skin conditions.

Be prepared for inspection

Metalworking fluid is a hazardous substance that comes under COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002).

Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause harm to lungs and skin through inhalation or direct contact with unprotected skin; particularly hands, forearms and face. Breathing in the mist generated by machining can lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

To reduce exposure, you need control measures in place. LEV should be fitted on CNC machines to carry away any harmful metalworking fluid mist, which is difficult to see in normal lighting.

Fluid quality should be regularly checked, focusing on concentration, pH, bacteria and contaminants. Fluid systems can become highly contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Where there is exposure to fluid or mist, it is a legal requirement to carry out health surveillance even when preventative controls are in place. You will need to involve an occupational health professional and workers should be encouraged to report any health symptoms that occur.

Find out more

See our campaign website for more details including:

  • Guidance on buying and using local exhaust ventilation
  • Machining with metalworking fluids information sheet
  • How to look after your metalworking fluid
  • Setting up occupational health and health surveillance.

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