While metalworking fluid has many different industrial applications that aid in the manufacturing process, workers may be overexposed to the the oils and chemicals that make up this versatile substance. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees working with heavy machinery and other forms of hardware might have adverse reactions to metalworking fluid that could be inhaled as a mist.
Although the signs of chemical overexposure from metalworking fluids are not always obvious, there are many different ways to know whether industry employees may be inhaling higher levels of metalworking fluid than recommended. These signals may be found in the health effects experienced by workers or the metalworking fluid itself.
Three signs of metalworking fluid overexposure:
1. Workers report stronger odors
While odors in manufacturing plants vary, certain scents indicate microbial growth in metalworking fluid.The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) said fluids with offensive odors may have microbial bacteria.
Microbial bacteria is a potential hazard as it can become airborne (in the form of fine particles and mists) and inhaled by employers and employees alike. Machines that are poorly maintained can accrue a buildup of bacterium when metalworking fluids are used. Employers can reduce worker exposure by using engineering controls such as an oil mist collector or similar extraction system. Without proper attention to its removal, microbial growth will thrive.
2. Employees may have mild or severe skin reactions
According to OSHA, workplaces that do not practice good industrial hygiene may find themselves with workers who report health problems that have to do with their skin. Since metalworking fluids can spray onto workers and become airborne, one of the common health effects of this substance is skin irritation.
A more severe reaction to metalworking fluid could include allergic contact dermatitis, which occurs when workers may come into contact with a substance that causes an immune reaction in the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Skin irritation may be a result of the fluid being associated with high alkalinity or workers exposed to a higher concentration of metalworking fluid.
3. Workers report irritation to their respiratory systems
According to NIOSH, workers who are exposed to metalworking fluids may complain of respiratory irritation that could result in them experiencing tightness in the chest. Other effects of fluid inhalation could also include impaired lung function and asthma.
When workers begin to feel the health effects of metalworking fluid, it could be an indicator that the workplace does not have proper ventilation. Companies that want to improve the respiratory health of their workers often invest in air purification systems such as an oil mist collector to extract metalworking fluid mist and replace it with clean air.
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