power press

The Mighty Power Press

The Mighty Power Press

Power PressPowerful metalworking machines, like a power press make punching a hole in sheet steel look as easy a punching holes in a sheet of paper. This equipment’s bulk and power is one of the reasons that injuries from power presses are among the most common in metal working industries. Power presses come equipped with numerous safety devices such as guards, barriers, presence sensing devices, or two-hand trips-for very good reason.

These machines are unforgiving. The injuries they cause are usually serious. Only ten manufacturing industries out of hundreds primarily use power presses, yet they have nearly 10% of all industrial amputations. There are proportionately more amputations within the metal working industry than in all of manufacturing. The data available shows that the metal working industry accounted for over 600 amputations annually. Young workers are especially at risk. So, if you operate a press, how can you ensure the safety of yourself and those around you?

Thorough Training: Operators of the equipment and their supervisors must know the safety precautions and how to identify safety controls. Anyone who uses a power press must be trained in all phases of its operation. This includes an understanding of its capabilities, limitations, controls, and hazards. Under OSHA codes, as a minimum, a power press operator must:

  • Thoroughly understand all controls of the press and how to use them. This includes clear instruction on safe operation of the press, from start-up to shut-down.
  • Be familiar with the safety guards and devices, and the correct use of this equipment. Never purposely defeat these controls. They are there to protect the operator.
  • Be instructed in the location of pinch points and how to avoid them.
  • Be instructed in the correct use of tools for removing jammed work, as well as the use of brushes, swabs or oil, for lubricating dies and stock. Know how to lock-out the press before beginning this work.
  • Maintain a high level of housekeeping around the equipment, including the storage of parts, tools, dies, etc.
  • Be trained never to operate the press until it has been checked and tested several times prior to production level operations.
  • Report all problems or maintenance issues to the supervisor.

Supervisors must be even more knowledgeable. They must know the equipment’s proper guard adjustment, maintenance requirements and set-ups. They must be able to watch an operation and determine if safe operating procedures are followed and if safety devices are in place.

The Safe Distance Method of guarding power press brakes is only permissible when physical barriers and other devices are not feasible. This rule was clarified earlier this year when OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program on Mechanical Power Presses. Industry leaders agreed that this emphasis is needed to assure safeguarding and to reduce serious worker injuries.

Both new and experienced operators often try to defeat power press safety devices. But guards have been installed for one reason only–so people cannot injure themselves due to inattention, fatigue or lack of knowledge. Never take this powerful equipment for granted. A serious injury will change your life. Bypassing a safety device for any reason is not worth the risk!