The Physical Dangers In Sheet Metal Fabrication

5 March 2015
 Categories: , Blog


Sheet metal fabrication is dangerous work if it isn't done carefully. However, even the most cautious sheet metal fabricator has their share of lacerations and stitches if they have performed this work over a long period of time. Working with thin sheets of steel is inherently dangerous, yet this is not the only danger faced by sheet metal fabricators.

What are some of the less obvious dangers in sheet metal fabrication?

Some risks to life and limb are caused by the use of sheet metal fabrication equipment such as:

  • Shears

These power shears are used to cut sheets of metal with blades up to ten feet in length. Operated by foot pedal so the operator can place the metal into position with their hands, the location of the foot pedal may become obscured by a large sheet of metal. Although there are guards meant to prevent an operator's fingers from reaching the blade, if the operator's fingers are beneath the metal and the foot petal mistakenly activated, the fingers could be crushed or removed.

  • Brakes

This equipment can be manually operated or powered, and is used to bend metal. A sheet of metal is inserted, then held in place when handles on either side are pulled down and locked, creating a vise-like grip. If a finger is inside the opening when a handle comes down, it will be crushed.

  • Rollers

As their name suggests, rollers roll metal into round shapes. Rollers may be manually operated or powered. A sheet of metal is placed between two metal rollers, which are tightened according to the desired amount of roll required. Power rollers are operated by foot pedals, and they are not discriminating in which objects they will roll. A glove or shirt sleeve caught in a roller may result in crushed fingers or hands if the operator panics or gets their foot stuck between the foot pedal and a guard that is usually installed over the pedal to prevent accidental activation.

Other health dangers for sheet metal fabricators include:

  • Chemicals

Sheet metal fabrication requires exposure to chemicals such as oil-based sealants, which can cause neurological problems and other health issues with prolonged exposure. Welding and soldering in sheet metal fabrication exposes workers to dangerous fumes and particulates.

  • Metal dust and shavings

Metal dust and shavings are dangerous because they are easily blown into workers' eyes. This is such a common occurrence that sheet metal fabricators must get an eye x-ray performed before they are allowed to get an MRI scan, because the risk of metal being ripped from their eyes during magnetic imaging is too great.

There are also other infrequent injuries, such as workers being blown off roofs when a large piece of sheet metal in their hands becomes a giant sail, or ten foot sheets of metal falling from a shelf and acting as a guillotine, severing limbs or necks.

Proper safety practices are mandatory when performing sheet metal fabrication, but a slight relaxation of these practices can result in injury or death, so violations of safety rules are often causes for dismissal. Carelessness doesn't only affect the worker that practices it, but also their fellow workers. For further assistance, contact professionals, such as those from Waters Brothers Contractors, Inc.