Mechanical and hydraulic shears are heavy-duty pieces of fabricating equipment used by many machine shops to, well, shear through sheet metal and other tough materials. As with any fabricating machinery, it is extremely important to exercise proper shear safety when using these machines.

Failure to take the appropriate shearing machine safety precautions can lead to time-lost safety incidents in the workplace—ones that can permanently disable your workers. While there is always an element of risk in operating any piece of heavy machinery, you can easily prevent injury to workers and damage to your equipment by following a few simple shear safety rules, such as:

Shear Safety Tip #1: Keep Your Metal Shear Well-Maintained

One of the most basic elements of safety when using any complex fabrication machinery is to keep that machinery in top shape. Shearing machine mechanisms that are worn, rusted, or otherwise poorly-maintained are going to be more prone to sudden catastrophic failure than ones that are well-maintained.

Before starting the shearing machine for any given shift, operators should conduct a cursory inspection of major shearing machine mechanisms to make sure they’re in good condition. The specific components that need to be checked will vary from one type of shearing machine to the next. For example, hydraulic metal shear safety checks might require the inspection of hydraulic pistons to ensure they aren’t leaking—systems that mechanical shears do not have.

Some important points to check on most types of shearing machines include:

  • Warning lights (to warn employees when the shear is in operation)
  • Mirrors (for letting operators see the rear side of the machine)
  • Emergency stop buttons (to halt the machine in case of an accident)
  • Lubrication system (for keeping the shear operating smoothly)

More detailed shearing machine inspections should take place on a monthly or quarterly basis as needed.

Shear Safety Tip #2: Keep the Shop Well-Lit

One of the basic requirements of hydraulic shear safety is keeping the area in and around the shear well lit so operators can see what they’re doing. A poorly-lit machine shop floor can contribute significantly to on-the-job accidents and injuries.

It may help to replace your lighting system with energy-efficient LED lighting that can put out brighter light for a lower power consumption rate than traditional lights can. Not only does this help you save money on lighting your machine shop, but these bulbs often last for years at a time, meaning they will need less frequent replacement.

Shear Safety Tip #3: Do Not Increase the Opening Height of the Finger Protector

The finger protector on an automated shearing machine is a device meant to keep operators from trying to reach into the space between the upper and lower blades of a shear. Considering that between two blades of metal that exert several tons of force meant to cut solid steel is the last place you’d want your fingers to be, this is a very important shearing machine safety precaution.

In the Amada Shearing Machine Safety Guide, the shear manufacturer mentions that the “maximum opening height of the finger protector is determined from the maximum thickness of worksheet to cut. The finger protector is installed at the safety distance that suits this maximum opening height. Do not increase its opening height.” To put this in other words, it is strongly recommended that you DON’T tamper with the finger protector (or any other built-in safety precautions) on a mechanical or hydraulic metal shear.

Shear Safety Tip #4: Familiarize Employees with the Shear

Even if a particular employee isn’t going to be operating the shear any time soon, it can be helpful to familiarize them with the shear and how it works anyways. Giving workers a crash course on basic shear safety rules (such as don’t go near the shear when the yellow lights are flashing) can help to ensure that every employee is aware of the potential dangers of the shear.

In fact, you may want to do this for all of the fabricating equipment you use in your machine shop for all employees as you onboard them.

Shear Safety Tip #5: Make Sure Employees Wear Proper Protection

It should go without saying that employees in a machine shop should wear proper protection at all times—but failure to wear proper protection is a frequently-cited OSHA standard violation. When working with shears, operators should wear gloves, goggles, boots, and thick clothing, at the very least, to prevent injuries.

Shear Safety Tip #6: Make Sure Safety Signage is in Place and Readable

This is another frequently-cited OSHA violation (number two on the list, in fact). It’s easy to neglect to take care of warning signage—after all, everybody knew what that faded sign said 10 years ago, surely everyone in the shop now knows it too, right?

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on everyone to pass down every bit of information from every warning sign posted on any of your fabricating machinery. So, an important shearing machine safety precaution is checking all of the OSHA-mandated signage on your shearing equipment every so often to make sure that:

  1. The signs are where they should be;
  2. Said signs are legible; and
  3. No signs are missing or damaged.

This helps you protect your employees by ensuring they can see all of the safety warnings they need to keep in mind—as well as helping you avoid getting hit with an OSHA violation for insufficient safety signage/communication.

Need to find the right hydraulic or mechanical shear for your machine shop floor? Contact the experts at SFMS today for help!