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Choosing the Right PPE for Machinists

Workplace safety is a growing concern among workers in North America. According to Injury Facts®, preventable workplace deaths totaled 4,414 in 2017 in the U.S., the fourth year in a row this number has increased. And, for every worker lost, countless loved ones, co-workers, and friends are affected. According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. Under the OSH Act, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

Hierarchy of Controls and PPE

Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective controls. As defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it flows as follows:
• Elimination – Physically remove the hazard
• Substitution – Replace or reduce the hazard
Engineering controls – Isolate people from the hazard
• Administrative controls – Change the way people work
• Personal protective equipment– Protect the worker with PPE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that use of PPE – considered the last line of defense against worker injury – is acceptable when controls higher in the hierarchy don’t eliminate the hazard or are in development. Numerous types of PPE are available that are geared to work conditions and the part of the body that might be susceptible to a hazard. A broad range of safety products and services can help organizations effectively mitigate hazards in the workplace.

Developing a PPE Program

Diversity is the shopping cart of businesses throughout the world. The diversity of uses and needs for appropriate PPE can only be determined by PPE assessment that fully determines the risk factors of a particular job function with human involvement.

Quality assessment to determine if the exposure is presented as prescribed in OSHA’s Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), is a must. PPE suppliers are positioned in the marketplace to help make determinations relative to the selection of the proper PPE needed based on employer certifications. By understanding the work and the limitations of PPE, these suppliers can better identify the right equipment, predict the correct level of protection, and decide if the equipment meets the immediate level of need to help keep workers safe.

PPE for Machinists

PPE choices should be based on a PPE assessment that identifies the hazards of different machines that affect the operators. Many machinists commonly face hazards such as exposure to chemicals, liquids, oils, heat, sharp edges, moving parts, pinch points, punctures, welding sparks, noise, vibrations and flying debris – all of which should factor in the PPE assessment and selection process. Small injuries that occur frequently include lacerations from burrs or chips, bumping a sharp tool bit or insert while handling a part in the machine, dumping scrap in a bin, and unfolding a band saw blade. All of these injuries are preventable with the proper PPE.

Here are a few examples:

• Head protection – Bumping into objects/falling objects.
• Eye protection – Safety glasses/side shields (goggles for splashes and spatters)
• Face protection – Face shield with safety glasses and side shields (for splashes and spatters)
• Hand protection – Nitrile or other solvent-resistant glove based on an SDS review of the chemical
• Apron (plastic disposable) – Based on operation and an SDS review of the chemical
• Clothing in general – Rigid fabrics in good repair, FR rated as required
• Footwear – Steel toe boots or shoes
• Hearing protection – noise cancelling earmuffs (push to listen) based on recorded and documented decibels.


The right glove selection depends upon the application. The OSHA CFR 1910.138 Hand Protection (a) General Requirements states: Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption or harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes. (b) Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

Chemicals and Liquids. Cleaning, wiping off, and degreasing machines expose workers to harsh chemicals. In addition, machine and metalworking fluids affect workers’ hands. Common applications include finishers polishing metal and workers cleaning machines after use. Coated fabric, rubber, plastic, or synthetic gloves are good solutions for standing up to chemicals and liquids. These gloves help protect against specific chemicals:
o Butyl rubber gloves: Nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and peroxide
o Natural latex/rubber gloves: Water solutions or acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones
o Neoprene gloves: Hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, and organic acids
o Nitrile rubber gloves: Chlorinated solvents

Computer-Controlled Panels. Common applications include operators working around electronic metalworking equipment. Featherweight nylon, touchscreen, and mechanics gloves are good options for operating control panels.

Cutting Oils. Common applications include workers cleaning up work areas and maintenance workers around metalworking fluids. As with chemicals and liquids, nitrile gloves are a good choice for standing up to oils and are easy to dispose of after use.

Heat, Burns and Hot Objects. Machine parts and workpieces can get hot and machinists need protection when handling hot metal workpieces. Leather, welders, mechanics, and Kevlar® gloves offer protection from heat.

Material Handling. Transporting material onto the machine shop floor can rough up hands. Common applications include material movers handling heavy metal parts and machinists handling metal components that may have sharp edges and burrs.

Moving Rotary Parts. Machinists who are operating rotating machines should not wear gloves. If machinists are working with a CNC machine, a lathe, a knee mill, or a drill press, wearing gloves near a rotating spindle can spell disaster.

Pinch Points. Working on gears, chains, and pulleys puts machinists’ hands in immediate harm’s way. Common applications include CNC operators installing metalwork pieces, deburring metal, and handling machined parts with rough edges. Gloves that offer high dexterity, high cut resistance, and back-of-hand protection such as mechanics and impact gloves are recommended.

Puncture. Metal splinters, small metal chips, and burrs are found all over metal. Common applications include machinists handling metal scrap and punching operators handling metal burrs. High-rated ANSI puncture- and cut-resistant gloves are this hazard’s best choice.

Sharp Objects. Machine shop workers, such as milling operators, deal with sharp edges on workpieces, sharp metal chips, and cutting tools. ANSI A2 to A9 cut-resistant gloves are the best option to avoid cuts and lacerations.

Welding. Welders work around sharp metal and hot sparks. Welding, aluminized, and leather gloves are excellent hand protection choices for welders.


A PPE assessment should reflect the hazards such as flying debris and filings; chips; dust; molten metals; radiant light from welding, cutting and brazing, and splashing chemicals. All should bear the marking ANSI Z78.1.

Features and styles reflect the needs and the fit required of the wearer. It is appropriate for the employer to perform the assessment of the need and review the variety of styles available to fit each employee.

Rockford Systems offers a full line of PPE. Please call 1-800-922-7533 or email [email protected] for more information.

Contributed by:
Brent Bryden, CEO for InterActive Safety Solutions, Inc., PO Box 457, Winnebago, IL 61088, 815-742-0513

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Kari Larson
Rockford Systems, LLC
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Dan O’Connell
O’Connell Communications
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