Tips for Machine Shop Safety

Let’s talk shop safety! 

We live in a world where safety can be over-emphasized in some situations and under-emphasized in others.  Let’s talk about real-world shop safety to keep eyes, ears, and fingers in tact!

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are critical, and even more so in a machine shop environment. Particles that may cause damage to your eyes are commonplace in a machine shop, such as chips and small particles created by grinding, sanding, or polishing. Using compressed air to clean a part off or even for use as coolant can cause these particles to become airborne, increasing the probability of causing eye damage. A good rule of thumb is this: if you ever find yourself squinting or needing to squint while working, you should probably be wearing safety glasses - but it is always a good idea to be safe and wear your eye protection whenever you’re working in the shop.

Machine Enclosure

Not all machines have an enclosure - but if yours does, use it! The spindle of a mill or lathe can generate extreme cutting forces. This is great when trying to max out your MRR or cycle time, but can be extremely dangerous when things go wrong (and they do!) An enclosure adds an extra layer of protection between you and the machine, protecting you from potentially high-velocity thrown parts, broken tool shrapnel, or red-hot chips. Kkeep your enclosure doors closed with your hands outside while any machining work is being done!   The acrylic windows on our Tormach enclosures show the proud marks of chips being flung against them (Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Shear Hog).  If those chips are hitting the enclosure, they’re hitting you.

Ask for Help

As with everything else, machining comes with a learning curve. It’s okay not to know how or be able to do everything! Never be afraid to ask for a helping hand if you are not sure how to use a tool or machine before going off on your own. Incorrectly using a tool without experience can have major consequences - expensive damage to company equipment, damage to a customer part, injury to you or others, and even death. On a similar note, get assistance moving a heavy part or piece of equipment! Asking for assistance can save you time and effort while avoiding injury to yourself or others. 

Feet & Footwear

Footwear is important! Not only are machinists on their feet for a substantial amount of their day, but the proper footwear plays a critical part in machine shop safety. Open-toe shoes have no place in a machine shop, and pose a significant hazard. Closed-toe shoes are a must in the shop, protecting your feet from falling chips, stubs, and light drops. Many industrial settings require steel-toe footwear, which is designed to keep you safe from heavy or sharp items dropped. These types of shoes should be worn any time you find yourself working around or lifting heavy parts and equipment. No-slip shoes are also a good idea in the event of coolant or lubricant leaks and spills.

If you’re standing for extended periods of time, consider an anti-fatigue mat.  Your older self will thank you.


Dress code in a machine shop isn’t so much what to wear to work as it is what NOT to wear. Anything loose is a hazard - always take off or secure any baggy or loose clothing, jewelry, ID badges, etc before using a machine. While some protective gear is crucial for specific jobs, remember that the same protective gear can be dangerous when using other machinery. For example, it is incredibly dangerous to operate a manual lathe while wearing work gloves, which are important protective gear for countless other tasks.

Don’t Touch the [End Mill, Part, Tool]!

Anytime you feel inclined to grab a workpiece or pull a chip off of a cutting tool: Don’t!   Stop and ask yourself:  1) Should I be touching this? and 2)  would I be better off using [pliers, scribe, gloves, etc].    A freshly cut part can have sharp edges, chips, and even microscopic razors.  Brushing your hand across the part is a sure way to start bleeding.  Likewise, never (never!) touch a cutting tool in a spindle whether stationary or turning.  End mills are good at what they do for a reason: they are sharp!   Anytime debris, swarf, birdsnest, etc needs removed from a cutting tool, stop the spindle and use pliers or a short stick to keep your digits in tact.

First Aid and 911

Keep a well-equipped first-aid kit at a readily accessible location within the shop.   Furthermore, when working alone, please keep a phone on your body so that you always have the ability to call for help if you are stuck or severely injured.   Finally, if your shop has the type of equipment that can cause catastrophic limb injury, consider keeping some tourniquets throughout the shop – preferably mounted to the wall no more than a few feet up.  It may sound far-fetched, if you have to crawl over to access a tourniquet, it may well save your life.  



Making an Arduino Computer More Durable


An Arduino is a single-board computer that was originally designed as an open-source prototyping platform, but has evolved into being a powerful unit capable of controlling a number of different devices, robotics systems, art creations, and everything in between. Just do a Google search for Arduino projects, and you'll see the overwhelming capabilities of this little PCB. "What does that have to do with machining?" You might ask.


Tormach’s Youngest Machinists

Robots are cool. When I was a kid R2-D2 and Rosie were fabrications of a fantastic, future-like world. Now, BB-8 and Beamo are incredibly close to reality. Sphero, a robotics company, has even put out a working toy version of the new Star Wars robot that is incredibly close to the movie version in appearance and function (unlike the rinky-dink action figures of my childhood). [youtube]-1Y2WfcCb4M[/youtube] Robotics is low-hanging fruit when it comes to getting kids involved in the world of STEM. Events like Maker Faire and FIRST Robotics feature inspired designs from the hands of kids, and give them the opportunity to get hands-on experience with robots. Now, there is even a robotics company that is run by two of Tormach’s youngest machinists. Camille and Genevieve Beatty, with a little help from their father, have made several commissioned robots for various museums.  Genevieve and Camille started building robots when they were 9 and 11, respectively, and got into CNC by building their own machine from scratch. They quickly realized the need for more rigidity and precision to build their robots. “We cobbled together our own CNC by buying stepper motors, and Z axes, and built our own computer. We basically built our own homemade CNC,” explains Robert Beatty, the girls’ father. “In particular, we wanted to be able to change tools rapidly. Our homemade CNC was just a collet with wrenches - it was a pain to have to change tools. So much so that we tried to design parts and our operations such that we didn’t have to change a tool.” Now with a PCNC 1100, the girls have a full array of 20 different tools and utilize a power drawbar. They also made a custom enclosure that was designed around a specific vise-system. “It's quite a large vise and it is bolted to the table semi-permanently, so we wanted the enclosure to wrap around it,” Dad explains. Their enclosure design led to further customization with the electronics on the front of the enclosure and bracketing elements for various tools and the jog shuttle. Like any good Maker, Camille and Genevieve use a fine combination of off-the-shelf components, parts hacked out of other devices, and custom-made parts on their Tormach. One of the first robots they constructed had a unibody design that pushed the machine’s Z-axis to its limit, and also provided some serious education in work-holding, since the piece had features on every side, requiring eight different clamping orientations. The girls have been featured at technology expos, Maker Faires, and even the White House as they continue to build new robots.


Family Robotics: Tormach Mill Helps Kids Make Rovers

Robotics is hard, especially when you want to build something new and have to rely on outside shops or vendors for components.

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