Safety Tips for Machine Shops

February 14, 2019 4:11 pm

Machine shops aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when we think about safety. Almost every kind of hazard can be found in a machine shop. There’s no telling what could befall any machinist, technician or apprentice as they go through their day-to-day responsibilities. Luckily, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed several guidelines and regulations to help prevent on-the-job injuries.

This article covers some basic guidelines to remember (and follow) so that you can get the job done safely.

We recommend keeping a self-inspection checklist and to run frequent inspections to make sure that the hazards in your machine shop are minimized.




Wear PPE (personal protective equipment) that is appropriate for your job.

PPE used in a machine shop may include:



Safety glasses are a staple in machine shops and should be worn always, whether or not you’re operating a machine. Otherwise, chips and other debris from your coworker’s machines could fly into your eyes. Clear protective glasses like this will work in most operations, but in some cases – like if you are welding or operating a plasma machine – shade glasses are needed.



Although not always required, having a good pair of ear protectors can help protect your hearing from the loud noises of a shop. If you are looking for a good model, this is what we recommend.



To preserve the health of the employees, machine shop owners should always evaluate the feasibility of installing engineering controls like fume hoods or general ventilation systems

When not possible, employers must provide employees with respirators that comply with OSHA regulations.



Loose clothing or torn clothing and unrestrained hair are a big no-no as they cause discomfort and may pose the threat of entanglement.

Never wear sandals, cloth sneakers or perforated shoes in areas where chemicals are used or machine work is performed. It’s advisable to don smocks for minor chemical spills and splashes, or rubber or plastic aprons for corrosive or irritating liquids.



Gloves are one of the most debated topics when it comes to machine shop safety.

There’s no doubt that gloves should never be worn anywhere close to a running machine, but some machinists still choose to wear nitrile gloves during material handling operations to protect their skin from chemicals or sharp edges. (Tip: deburr your parts.)

We recommend that you avoid wearing gloves anywhere inside a machine shop.



Welding operations definitely require a different consideration. To minimize the risk of injury, welders should always wear specific protective gear, such as helmets, gloves, and aprons.

If you are looking for more information about protective welding equipment, you can find it here.




Always remember to inspect the machines thoroughly for missing or loose bolts, nuts, screws and other components.

Before operating a machine, make sure that all appropriate guards are secure.




Never rush machine speeds or feeds. This can result in your injury or damage of tools or machinery.




While operating the machine, listen to it carefully. If something does not sound right, immediately turn it off and thoroughly inspect it for problems.




Always clean up a machine after you’re done using it. Besides being uncomfortable to use, a dirty machine can result in injury.

We recommend using a good vacuum to remove chips safely from a machine after use. Never use compressed air to blow machines clean. This can cause flying particle hazards and may force dirt into machine bearings.

Make sure all walkways and personnel traffic areas are clear of all kinds of scrap. All work areas must be free of clutter, debris, and trip hazards.

Keep all surfaces in the work area clean. Ensure that all platforms and floors are free of grease, oil and spill hazards.



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  • Rodney says:

    Thx for bringing this up. Although you omitted a very important aspect. All long hair to be constrained above the shoulders.
    Long hair caught in rotating equipment is a serious disaster resulting in death or extremely serious injury.

  • Rob says:

    Good stuff,
    Interesting about the gloves !

  • Ed says:

    We provide nitrile gloves, cotton gloves and leather glove to protect our employee’s and my own hands from fluids and contaminates on material, sharp edges, sparks, UV, IR, hot and cold. After 49 years doing machine work, welding and assembly I personally think nitrile gloves are as important as eye and hearing protection in the machine shop. There is no way of getting SDS information on the materials used in material production so one should error on the side of caution. When moving metal cotton gloves are better than welding gloves or nitrile gloves

  • TOM says:

    also no long sleeves in machine shops, they get into something and drag you in

  • Lassenforge says:

    The cleanup at the end of the day is a good time to be on the lookout for fasteners that may have come loose from your machine and migrated “elsewhere “. Can’t think how many times we found bolts or nuts in the swarf or in the equipment, and then found where they came from.

  • Tim says:

    I take your point about vacuum cleaners. However in my experience they work fine to begin with but the machine and the bags can very easily become clogged with cutting oil. I use three high quality paint brushes from 5 inches width to 4mm for cleaning the QCTP etc.. The last is of course important. Tools need to sit straight! I never understand how Swiss maches look so pristine in photographs. Operating at the speeds they do I would imagine they chuck around a lot of swarf!

  • Rob says:

    All good stuff, don’t underestimate the danger of hearing damage. If it sounds too loud do something about it. I have tinnitus now and it’s not much fun at all ! Worse than that, there is no known cure.

  • GoFish says:

    As someone with very long hair and a long beard I have no problems. I twist and roll my beard and tie with a hairband, sometimes I wear a surgical facemask as well. My hair I tie with a hairband, twist, roll and restrain with another hairband and I wear a beanie. Common sense and never had any problems.
    Gloves. I carry with me Riggers gloves and wear them when handling materials, they go on and come off as needed.
    Respirators! This one needs to be hammered home! My lungs are not good due to working where there was a lot of grinding dust. 30 – 40 years ago we just grabbed an angle grinder and went at it. Breathing protection is vital.
    One thing not mentioned is sleep. If you feel tired take a break and tell the boss to take a hike. You rest or he might face criminal charges it is that simple.

  • Mathew S. Molk says:

    God bless you for pointing out gloves of ANY type have no place around rotating machinery any more then long hair or loose clothing.

    Loose the gloves or loose a finger. It’s better to get a couple of stitches in your thumb then it is to not have a thumb to get stitches in.

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