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HSENI stamp on firms with insufficient safeguards for metal working fluids’ work

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has warned manufacturers and engineering companies who do not sufficiently manage exposure to metal working fluids (MWF) that they could face enforcement action.

HSENI stamp on firms with insufficient safeguards for metal working fluids’ work
Image credit: © iStock/Fertnig

The HSENI has announced a focused inspection campaign for October and businesses will be visited to check that they have sufficient safeguards in place. The inspection checklist includes making sure a suitable risk assessment is available for controlling risks and that machinery is adequately guarded.

Inspectors will also check that businesses hold current local exhaust ventilation (LEV) records to prove that the system has been examined in the past 14 months, which is a legal requirement. 

Businesses will need to show inspectors that they have either prevented or adequately controlled the exposure to MWF by inhalation and skin contact. Sometimes referred to as suds, coolants, slurry or soap, MWFs are used during the machining of metals to provide lubrication and cooling.

As part of next month’s inspections, employers will also need to demonstrate the quality of MWF has been maintained and that they have taken measures to minimise the bacterial contamination of metalworking and associated washing fluids. 

Inspectors will expect businesses to show they have carried out health surveillance where necessary. The HSENI has warned that manufactures and engineering firms that have failed to comply could be handed improvement and prohibition notices to improve standards.

Exposure to MWFs has been linked to serious and debilitating conditions, including dermatitis, occupational asthma, bronchitis, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and, in rare cases, a more serious lung disease called extrinsic allergic alveolitis. 

The HSENI has published a checklist for manufacturing and engineering companies, so they can assess their current management of MWF before the inspections begin.


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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