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Metalworking Fluids

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Working With Metalworking Fluids

Health Risks

In compliance with health and safety law, employers are required to establish a health surveillance scheme for workers exposed to specific health risks.

Where there is exposure to fluid or mist, it is a legal requirement to carry out health surveillance even when preventative controls, such as fluid quality checks and LEV, are in place.

Managing 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 controlled.

Maintaining Fluid Quality

Water-mix metalworking fluid deteriorates over time and can become contaminated with harmful bacteria and other contaminants. Monitoring and maintaining fluid quality is key to controlling risk.

To maintain safe and effective fluids, you need to regularly check and correct concentration, pH and bacteria levels.

  • Visual and odour checks should be carried out daily
  • Concentration, pH and dipslides should be performed weekly.

For more information, see HSE's guidance sheet COSHH MW5: Managing fluid quality (PDF)

The UK Lubricants Association (UKLA), Metalworking Fluid Product Stewardship Group (MWFPSG) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced a guide with helpful advice for all employers, see Good Practice Guide for Safe Handling and Disposal of Metalworking Fluids

Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)

LEV should be fitted to CNC machines where operators are exposed to metalworking fluid mist. It is the key control measure to reduce inhalation exposure to airborne contaminants such as dust, mist, fume, vapour or gas.

Local exhaust ventilation systems are available in a wide variety of sizes, depending on the work area. A typical LEV system will feature:

  • Hood – to collect airborne contaminants at, or near, where they are created (the source).
  • Ducts – to carry the airborne contaminants away from the process.
  • Air cleaner – to filter and clean the extracted air.
  • Fan – which must be the right size and type to deliver sufficient ‘suck’ to the hood.
  • Discharge – for the safe release of cleaned, extracted air into the atmosphere.

For more detail see HSE Clearing The Air guide (PDF)

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Cutting & Coolant Fluids

Cutting & coolant fluids are primarily used to lubricate and cool the cutting tools and workpieces during a wide variety of machining processes. They help reduce heat generation, improve surface finish, extend tool life, and enhance machining efficiency. The main goal of these metalworking fluids is to optimise the machining process and maintain tool and workpiece integrity.

Choosing Cutting & Coolant Fluids

When choosing cutting & coolant fluids, there are several important factors to consider that will be dependent on the applications you will be carrying out.

  • Application: Select the appropriate cutting & coolant type which is most suitable for your application.
  • Product Type: Cutting & coolant fluids are designed for use in different applications. Consider the most suitable product for your needs.
  • Form: Cutting & coolant fluids are available in various forms. Select from oil, spray, fluid, foam, lubricant, compound or liquid.
  • Size & Container Type: Cutting & coolant fluids are available in a range of sizes and container types. Consider the most suitable size and container type for use on your equipment and parts.

By carefully evaluating all these factors to ensure the cutting & coolant fluid that is compatible with your application and parts.

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Layout Fluids

Layout fluids also known as layout dye or layout marking fluids, are used for marking and scribing precise lines and patterns on metal surfaces. They are often used in metalworking, welding, and fabrication to guide cutting, drilling, and other machining operations.

Choosing Layout Fluids

Choosing the right layout fluid type for your project is critical. Consider the surface material, visibility, durability, ease of application and removal. The choice of colour can depend on your personal preference or the specific application.

  • For Use on: Ensure that the ink is compatible with the material you are marking. Some inks work better on metals, while others are suitable for wood or plastic.
  • Colour: Choose a colour that contrasts well with the surface material for easy visibility e.g. blue, red, yellow, white.
  • Product Type: Decide which layout fluid product type you require layout ink, marking paste or layout ink remover.
  • Size: Layout fluids are available in a range of sizes. Consider the most suitable size for your application.

Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations and safety guidelines when working with layout fluids and their associated products

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Rust Treatment

Rust treatments often referred to as rust inhibitors or rust preventatives, are products designed to protect metal surfaces from corrosion and rust formation. They create a protective barrier on the metal surface, preventing moisture and oxygen from coming into contact with the metal and causing rust. They are commonly used in industries where metal parts or components need to be stored for extended periods.

Choosing a Rust Treatment

Rust treatments play a crucial role in preventing corrosion and preserving the lifespan of your equipment and parts. When choosing a rust treatments it is important to consider several factors to ensure you select the most effective rust treatment for your application.

  • Protects Against: Rust treatments protect against a wide range of causes. Decide what you need to protect against.
  • Form: There are various forms of rust treatments to suit your application. Decide which form of rust treatment you require.
  • Size & Container Type: Rust Treatments are available in a range of sizes and container types. Consider the most suitable to use on your equipment and parts.

All serve a different purpose in preventing or addressing corrosion issues, and the choice of which to use depends on the specific needs and conditions.

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