RR1171 - Metalworking fluid and use of compressed airguns in machining: expert workshop

Water-mix metalworking fluids (MWF) are widely used to cool machined parts in cutting and grinding machines. Employers must ensure effective exposure control measures are in place to protect workers from potential health risks. Potential risks include inhalation of small MWF droplets and mist causing lung diseases such as severe asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and skin disease (dermatitis) from contact with MWF.

The use of compressed airguns by machinists to clean machined components can generate MWF mist composed of droplets small enough to be inhaled. Therefore, the use of alternative cleaning methods that do not generate droplets and mist could help to reduce the risk of lung disease.

This report describes a 2019 expert workshop including representatives from the machining industry and lubricant manufacturers to elicit views on the use of compressed air guns and barriers to adopting alternative cleaning methods. The workshop participants had 4 key conclusions.

  1. Industry was familiar with the risks of injuries from equipment and noise-induced hearing loss, but was less familiar with the risks of lung and skin diseases.
  2. Experienced machinists regarded compressed airguns as the most effective tool to clean and prevent damage to the machined component.
  3. New airgun designs reduced aerosol formation, droplets splashed back onto the operator, and noise. However, their higher cost may be a barrier to wider adoption.
  4. Industry needed to share more evidence about alternative cleaning methods. HSE is using these findings to inform ongoing inspections and engagement with industry to protect workers.

Visit the RR1171 report

The Research Report Series are produced in Adobe Acrobat. The use of the latest version of the software is recommended which is available at the Adobe website via the link on this page.

Assistance in the use of Adobe Acrobat PDF files is available on our FAQs page.

Is this page useful?

Updated 2022-05-27