All lathe operators must be constantly aware of the safety hazards that are associated with using the lathe and must know all safety precautions to avoid accidents and injuries. Carelessness and ignorance are two great menaces to personal safety. Other hazards can be mechanically related to working with the lathe, such as proper machine maintenance and setup.
A high proportion of all accidents at metalworking lathes involve the use of emery cloth and result in injuries such as broken and, occasionally, amputated fingers. Emery cloth is used to deburr, polish, or size a wide range of cylindrical, tapered, and threaded metal components while they are rotating in lathes.
Emery cloth should NEVER be used at NC lathes. Employers should assess the need to use emery cloth on components rotating in a lathe. Such operations may not be necessary if:
- The finish being sought is only cosmetic. For such finishes, the component may be held in one hand and polished by emery cloth held in the other. Alternatively, a finishing belt or machine may be used.
- A sizing operation can be successfully performed either by turning or by further operations in a dedicated polishing, finishing, or grinding machine.
For polishing the ends of components, only very short lengths or pads of cloth, which are incapable of causing entanglements, should be used. Overall sleeves should be tight-fitting and gloves should never be worn.
Most accidents happen when each end of a strip of emery cloth is held in separate hands and passed around the back of the component being finished. If the cloth is wrapped around the fingers and/or becomes snagged on the component while it is tightly gripped, then a serious injury is the likely result.
Some important safety precautions to follow when using lathes are:
- Correct dress is important, remove rings and watches, roll sleeves above elbows.
- Always stop the lathe before making adjustments.
- Do not change spindle speeds until the lathe comes to a complete stop.
- Always wear protective eye protection.
- Never lay tools directly on the lathe ways. If a separate table is not available, use a wide board with a cleat on each side to lay on the ways.
- Use two hands when sanding the workpiece. Do not wrap sandpaper or emery cloth around the workpiece.