Rules of Handling Different Metal Sheets – A Detailed Guide

metal sheet fabrication

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Sheet metal fabrication is a technical procedure that involves automated tools and machinery. Sometimes, employees have to work manually as well. Metal sheet fabrication poses several dangers to the workers. Manufacturers and owners keep the employees aware of workplace hazards. This guide will highlight handling different metal sheet materials, tools, and equipment. Further, readers can also get the best safety tips for metal work.

Material handling for metal sheet fabrication

Metal sheets are stored and handled in pin tables, stock, storage racks, pallet racks, mini hoppers, rolling pallet carts, modular stacking carts, and much more. Before placing them in the racks, it often requires human handling. So, personal protective equipment is essential to handle metal sheets. Usually, metal sheet workers use lifters and carts to move and store the metal stocks. But it also demands higher protection of the employees. 

Metal sheets are heavy and carry sharp edges. It can immediately cause cuts and injuries on slight touch to edges. Further, metal is sensitive to temperature. On exposure to sunlight or slight heat, its temperature can soar to many degrees. Similarly, sheet metal often gets wet and cold in the winter season. Employees need to check the temperature of the metal sheets before carrying them.it is recommended to wear heat-resistant gloves or leather gloves. 

Slip-resistant, high-quality insole, and outsole shoes keep the employees safe from liquid and hard debris. As mentioned earlier, sheet metals are harder to carry from one place to another. That is why professional metal sheet engineers use mechanical tools to move the sheets from one place to another. In some cases, it becomes essential to move the sheets manually. Then, it is advised to seek the assistance of other employees and lift the sheets carefully. However, lifting equipment handles the metal sheet in the best manner. It prevents the sheet from bending and protects workers from back injuries. 

Gas Welding & Cutting

Welding is the discrete part of metal sheet fabrication. It connects two or more parts. Gas welding and cutting are common in the metal sheet fabrication process. Gas welding uses compressed gases. The purpose is to produce a high-temperature flame that can firmly bind the two connecting parts.

Gas cylinders

Gas cylinders contain compressed gas under high pressure. Any hard hit to the gas container can turn it into a bomb. It blasts like a bomb and causes greater damage to the property and place. Employees should avoid hammers and hard bars to open the gas cylinder valves. Further, it is strictly prevented from bumping the gas container. It may cause cracks in the container, and gas may start leaking. 

Moving of cylinders

Cylinders must be placed in an upright position in storage and transport. Moreover, before transporting the cylinders, ensure all cylinders have valve protection caps. These caps keep the cylinders from leakage and damage. Further, cylinders are moved from one place to another in specific vertical racks. It prevents collision and any damage to the cylinders while transporting. 

Never allow cylinders to move in rolled or horizontal position. Reaching the destination shop or workplace, cylinders should be moved on their bottom edge. Never move the cylinders using chains, slings, or any magnet around its collar. However, chains and other materials can keep the cylinders upright and avoid knocking and tipping. Suppose you have to move cylinders without any stack or equipment. Always seek assistance to take it to the desired place.    

Storage of cylinders

Cylinders carry compressed gas. It may be dangerous to store it in a congested place. Here are some of the storage guidelines relevant to the gas cylinders:

  • Fuel-gas cylinders should be separated from the oxygen gas cylinders.
  • There should be placed non-combustible barriers among the two cylinders. Each cylinder should be placed at a distance of 20 feet.
  • The cylinders should be safe from bumps, damage, and knockdowns.
  • Choose a well-ventilated area with moderate temperature. 
  • Keep combustible materials away from the storage place. 

Gas fueling in cylinders.

Employees should be well aware and trained on “how to fuel the gas in a cylinder .”The employees should crack professionally without facing any mishaps. Cracking refers to cleaning the debris and dust from the cylinder’s valve. Cracking is done before attaching the regulator. The right way to remove dirt is to open the valve slightly and close it immediately. Thus, a small amount of gas will escape from the valve and clear the debris from the valve. Ensure there is no ignition source at the time of cracking.    

Usage

Commonly, cylinders are placed in the ventilated area. Fuel-containing gas cylinders should never be taken in congested places or poor ventilation areas. In addition, never place the fuel gas containers near the flammable elements. Only oxygen-breathing cylinders can be taken at any place to breathe comfortably.

Cylinder opening

Cylinders should not be opened quickly. It can only be closed and opened up to one and a half turns. If you are using a wrench to open the cylinder, keeping the wrench on the top of the opening is advised. Place the regulator on the cylinder opening carefully. Keep the hard objects away from the regulator that can cause damage to the cylinder.

Hoses

Hoses for acetylene or other fuel gas must be distinguished with tags. The users can use different colors to distinguish them or tag them with different textures. The condition of the hoses must be inspected at the start of the project. Shops and factories that regularly use gas cylinders must be careful about the condition of the hoses. Hoses in poor condition should be removed from the workplace immediately.

In addition, hose pressure should be up to 300 pounds per square. Never pull the hose in a straight position. It may cause accidental disconnections and poor engagement. Prevent the hoses from being placed in passages, ladders, and other common pathways. The purpose is to avoid sudden hits, damage, colloidal, or knockdown. 

Torches

Inspect the torch, valves, and tip connections. Remove the defective parts immediately. Moreover, clean the torch tips with clogged wires or other equipment. Never use match sticks to light the torches. Lighter or other modern devices are more suitable to light the torch.

Arc Welding & Cutting

Flameproof screen

Arc welding releases dangerous flames that can damage the body and uniform of the welder. So, using the flameproof screen in all arc welding operations is advised. 

Electrode handling

When there is a need to leave the electrode holders for a limited time, it is good to remove the electrode and place the holder in such a position that it can keep it from electrical contact. Never place the hot electrodes in water. It can cause severe electric shock and damage the welding operations.

Faulty equipment

Responsible personnel should carefully monitor the equipment. Never leave the poor-performing tools unattended. The employees are responsible for removing the faulty equipment from the workplace immediately. It ensures the safety of the workers and active projects. 

Cables and other components

American National Standard Institute guides that only insulated and well-protected components should be used in arc welding. Holders, holder jaws, and all cables should be well insulated. Non-insulated parts should be removed or repaired instantly. Manual electrode holders should have the capacity to bear the maximum current. Cables that are connected to electrodes must not be broken or spliced. If a cable with an electrode within 10 feet has split parts, it should not be allowed to be used. Splices with standard insulating connectors can be used.

Grounding

Grounded cables must have the current carrying capacity equivalent to the output it generates. For instance, if a grounded cable serves more than one unit, its capacity must be equivalent to the sum of all units. All joints of the grounded circuits and cables should be inspected regularly. Any faults and flaws in the grounded joints must be addressed immediately.

All machines must be grounded with a third earth wire. The purpose is to ensure that grounded cables can carry maximum current mechanically and electrically. 

Fire extinguishing operations for gas and arc welding

Welding poses many hazards like heat, sparks, flames, slags, and other emissions from the welded part. Some surfaces with flammable paints are not welded. They need other connecting operations to repair. So, welding requires a safe place to continue operations. The parts or components that can be moved are welded in a safe place to avoid any hazards. However, fixed parts or objects have to be welded in place. In such cases, welders must ensure that heat and emissions are limited. There should not be any cylinders, fire-catching elements, or flammable objects while welding. 

When welding, fire extinguishers should be available at the spot in the working condition.

  • Suppose the fire hazards are significant in the welding process. In that case, there should be trained personnel to tackle the fire prevention operations. 
  • Sand buckets and fire extinguishers should be in easy access. 
  • While welding, shut off the gas supply as you take a break or finish the welding process. 
  • If there are flammable elements in the containers, tightly close the lids to avoid any mishap while welding.
  • When welders have to work with containers that often carry flammable elements, fill them with water before welding. The containers should be empty, cleaned, and well-ventilated. 
  • Never weld a container that has a lid over it. Remove the lid and let the air pass inside. 

Protective measures for welding 

Several equipment and tools are involved in different types of welding. Here are some hazards mentioned that can cause great damage when mishandled or ignored:

  • Keep the grease and oil away from equipment

Oxygen-containing containers must be handled with great care. Equipment like caps, valves, and fittings should not be touched with greasy or oily hands. Oxygen containers can catch fire when exposed to oil or grease. 

  • Train employees about welding protective measures

Employees must be trained in removing flammable elements and hazards in the welding space. In case of fire hazards, welders or other metal sheet services employees should be aware of fire extinguishing operations. 

  • Open and close the power supply carefully.

The power supply should be open immediately when the welder takes a break or is not using the machinery. Never leave the work with the closed power supply. Before leaving the welding space, ensure the power supply is shut down.

  • Well-ventilated area and respiratory protective equipment

Some metals release airborne contaminants that may exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL). Welding metals like zinc, lead-base metal, cadmium, mercury, and beryllium-containing bases or fillers may release toxic elements while welding. It becomes difficult to work with these types of metal in confined places. Moreover, welders may have difficulty in breathing. 

Employers are bound to provide respiratory protective equipment to keep the worker secure. Confined places should have some ventilation to continue the smooth welding operations. All types of welding operations create dust, fumes, and air debris. The employees are responsible for ensuring the safety measures before starting the welding operation. 

  • Eyes and face protection

Due to fumes, flammable elements, and dust, welders need eye and face protection. Special welding glasses and welding screens near the face keep the workers safe from the emissions of the cut part. 

  • Protective clothing

Welding costumes must be heat-resistant and have the capacity to bear fumes and flammable emissions. In addition, if the workers wear casual uniforms, the apron is the best option. An apron made of leather or other flame-retardant clothing keeps the welders safe.

Handling of the specific metals

Toxic exposure

Stainless steel produces hexavalent chromium, known as a carcinogen. Chromium starts oxidizing at high-temperature welding. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explored that workers frequently exposed to hexavalent chromium are at greater risk of lung cancer. Moreover, these workers are more prone to nose, throat, and lung infections. Continuous exposure to hexavalent chromium also causes skin rashes, damaged skin, and infectious skin diseases. 

There should be great care while handling stainless steel and its cutting. Employers are responsible for getting strict about the precautionary regulations. Responsible personnel should ensure the minimum exposure of the worker to this toxic compound. If exposure during metal sheet engineering is significant, ensure workers wear all personal protective equipment. 

Lifting Operations

Loading the metal sheets, storage, and transporting have several stories of mishaps and tragedies. Sometimes, workers face injuries from sharp edges, while in some cases, mishandling while loading may cause danger to human lives. 

Metal sheet fabrication authorities recommend the use of double-hoist cranes as compared to single ones. There should be durable lifting equipment with stronger wires and pendants. The usage of remote-controlled cranes is safer than traditional lifting cranes. When metal sheets are to move at height, there should be more discrete frames or racks that can prevent accidents.  

Common injuries working with sheet metal fabrication

Metal sheet services require manipulation of the metals. Changes in metal structure can be hazardous. Common injuries with sheet fabrication involve punctures and scratches due to sharp edges. Sometimes welders get cuts or burns due to cutting. Metal hammering and other procedures also cause severe injuries when performed carelessly.

The most dangerous thing to an individual’s life is falling off the sheets accidentally. Handling or transporting the sheets manually from one place to another poses many dangers. Sometimes, lifters and equipment transporting the metal sheets can have tragic accidents. Metal sheets can fall over the property or lives. In such cases, human lives can be lost.

That is why wearing human protective gear and adopting safety measures before handling the metal sheets is recommended.

General Safety practices for metalwork place

Metal sheet engineering demands extreme care and attentiveness to complete a project. Workers have to adopt all safety measures before starting any project. Moreover, responsible personnel must monitor the preventive measures throughout the project to keep the workplace tragedy-free. Have a look at some essential safety measures:

  • Safe storage place

Metal sheets are much heavier. Some require vertical space, while others need horizontal one. Storage space should be well organized and separated. Moreover, equipment and machinery storage should also be protected well. Never install any metal work equipment near ladders and passages.  

  • Organized workshop

Machinery should be installed sideways, and center space should be free. There should not be any hurdle in moving within the metal fabrication space. Avoid placing machinery or tools in odd places. Keep the dry and liquid debris clear. Responsible staff should keep it clean to avoid any injury or accident.

  • Usage of advanced or suitable lifting equipment

Using traditional lifting equipment, choose the right lifters for the metal sheets. Every metal sheet carries a specific weight. Make sure that the weight of the metal sheet should not exceed the overall capacity of the lifters. 

For advanced lifting tools, choose the right racks and frames to place metal sheet parts and components. 

  • Wear personal protective equipment.

Metal sheet engineering requires the protection of workers at the workplace. So, all workers should wear protective clothing and tools like gloves, uniforms, aprons, glasses, and face screens to avoid dangerous flames, fumes, dust, or other substances.

  • Follow state’s safety rules for the metal workplaces

States or local authorities have complete guidelines and manuals to work at the metal sheet fabrication spots. There is a dire need to implement those rules strictly in the workplace. 

  • Trained employees

Never allow untrained personnel at the work site with dangerous compounds, heavy machinery, and lifting tools. If your workshop welcomes fresh workers, allow them to be under the supervision of senior workers. Never allow the new workers to operate an unknown or advanced tool until they are trained well.

Bottom Line

Workers and employers can face enormous ergonomic hazards. Authorities have set the rules and regulations to operate the machinery and tools at the metal workplace. The purpose is to prioritize the employee’s safety. It is the responsibility of the employers to provide personal protective equipment. Managers and supervisors should ensure all workers have adopted essential measures before starting fabrication. 

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