About metalworking fluids
Metalworking Fluids (MWFs) are neat oils or water-based fluids used during the machining and shaping of metals to provide lubrication and cooling. They are sometimes referred to as suds, coolants, slurry or soap.
The main health risks from working with metalworking fluids
Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause:
- irritation of the skin or dermatitis;
- lung diseases, such as occupational asthma, occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis, bronchitis, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and other breathing difficulties.
Fluid and mist from water-mix wash fluids and washing machines used to clean machined components may be hazardous in much the same way as fluid and mist from metalworking machines, and the same principles of risk assessment, prevention and control should be applied.
How harm is caused
Metalworking fluids are mostly applied by continuous jet, spray or hand
dispenser and can affect your health:
- if you inhale the mist generated during machining/shaping operations;
- through direct contact with unprotected skin, particularly hands, forearms
- through cuts and abrasions or other broken skin; and
- through the mouth if you eat, drink or smoke in work areas, or from
poor personal hygiene, eg not washing hands before eating.
Key messages for managing the health risks
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) requires
exposure to metalworking fluids by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact
to be prevented where reasonably practicable, or failing that, adequately
To achieve the necessary control and risk reduction, among other actions,
you will need to: