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FAQ’s

Please note below some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) relating to safety and health in the foundry industry. Should you have a question of your own, please complete the form on the contact page and your question/s will be forwarded to the SHIFT Administrator who in confidence will seek the appropriate answer direct from HSE.

I provide my staff with the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) but at times they don't wear it when they should. They have all signed to say they have received it and know to wear it. What more can I do or should I do?

This is a common question. Firstly, you have taken the correct action by ensuring the correct PPE is provided and identified when to wear it. You need to do some investigations to find out why it is not being worn, is it suitable for the working environment, comfortable to wear, compatible with other workwear etc? Seeking the opinions of those who wear it will help as will observation of the tasks.

Secondly, have you ensured that your employees understand why they have to wear it and how to wear it? Telling someone of the hazards of not wearing PPE, giving examples of the consequences of not wearing can help. If you are going to get your employees to sign for receipt then this is a good opportunity to obtain proof that they understand the use of the PPE.

Thirdly, if you have provided suitable PPE and employees are properly instructed in its use then you must take all reasonable steps to ensure it is properly used. This means setting the example and enforcement. Managers should set the example at all times and wear the correct PPE and not condone employees who fail to wear PPE appropriately. Ultimately you may need to take action to ensure that employees do not put themselves and the business at risk by not wearing PPE. If an employee consistently chooses not to wear the appropriate PPE then you should protect both the employee and the business by removing him from the hazard!

Can I show visitors around the foundry?

Yes, provided you have taken all steps to ensure their health and safety. This means ensuring that they have adequate information about the hazards and control measures, that they are properly supervised and that they are provided with the correct PPE.

The key is to keep the risks to their health and safety as low as is reasonably practicable. Therefore, avoid close contact with high risk activities such as pouring, crossing vehicle routes, access to heights etc. Often it is possible to show a visitor the foundry from a safe position such as a control room, from a suitable sited observation room or via CCTV.

Do I need to provide head protection within the foundry?

Head protection is needed for three main reasons within the foundry; falling object protection; collision/ bumping and molten metal splash/ heat protection. For each task you will need to identify what the particular hazards are and what head protection will be required. Again the principles of suitable for the task and environment stand, for instance the some PPE may not be suitable for molten metal splash or heat.

What are the changes with silica exposure levels?

Respireable silica is common within sand foundries particularly within the sand plant/ mould making area and fettling and shakeout areas. For many years it has had a maximum exposure limit (0.3mg/m3 8hr time weighted average) as there is evidence that it causes silicosis.

New evidence shows that there is a much higher risk of lung damage than previously thought and that exposures to high levels of respireable silica significantly increases the chance of lung cancer.

In 2003 HSE issued an warning of this and advice that it now considered that levels of 0.1mg/m3 8hr time weighted average should be sought. See hse.gov.uk/pubns/chan35.htm

Fortunately most foundries have been achieving exposure levels of below 0.1mg/m3 for several years. However, you should review your exposure monitoring records to ensure you are below the level, including during activities such as maintenance and cleaning.

HSE has issued a series of guidance notes in the COSHH Essentials series aimed at providing advice on what is practicable to do within the foundry (coshh-essentials.org.uk). 

I have heard that fine metal mesh is available as an alternative to "perspex" faceshields, what do you know about it?

It is NOT suitable for protection against molten metal splash, when molten metal hits the mesh it does not stop penetration to the face area.

What hazards should I be concentrating on within the foundry?

Numerically the biggest cause of accidents with the foundry are musculo-skeletal injury, slips/trips/falls and molten metal burns. So far as ill health hand/arm vibration, noise and silica result in the greatest number of reports.

However, frequency is not the only criteria to assess priorities, you should also consider severity. For instance falling from height and being injured by workplace transport result in fatal or major injury. Therefore, following the HSE priority topics of slips/trips; workplace transport; falls from height; musculo-skeletal injury and occupational stress with the foundry specific issues of molten metal burns, HAV, noise and silica form a good place to start.

Are contractors working on gas installations in foundries required to be Gas Safe registered?

As factories are excluded from the majority of the requirements of Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (GSUIR), there is no requirement for engineers to be Gas Safe registered for carrying out non-domestic work.

However, there is a requirement for engineers to be competent – Reg 3(1) of GSUIR: ‘No person shall carry out work in reaction to a gas fitting or gas storage vessel unless he is competent to do so’.

It is the duty holders responsibility to ensure that persons coming onto their site to undertake work with gas are competent. Competence may be proven by relevant ACS, NVQ or SVQ qualifications for individuals working on site.

It is important to note that any person carrying out work in any parts of foundries used as domestic, residential or sleeping accommodation must be carried out by someone on the Gas Safe Register.   Many Contractors choose to be Gas Safe registered as it allows them the flexibility to work where ever they are competent to do so.

Can I use normal PPE when working around molten metal?

Molten metal carries its own very specific risks compared with other areas within he foundry and it is important to ensure that the PPE worn in this area is suitable for the task in hand.  As with all PPE it must be remembered that it is designed purely for dealing with residual risks and small scale splashes of metal only. 

For furnace personnel who will be working around molten metal for a large portion of their working day of for those working in manual casting operations, it is best practice to wear long length foundry boots that cover the majority of the lower leg as these offer the best levels of protection.  Protective trousers should be worn over the top of the boots.  Trousers should never be tucked into any boot as this produces an entrapment area for metal to settle, causing injury.

Clothing for working with molten metal should be suitably chosen and be selected for both the type of metal being used and the level of risk.  Best practice has covered studs or Velcro fittings and ideally no pockets on the outside of jackets where metal may settle.  The HSE has a lot of very useful simple information on molten metal protective clothing on its website.  Go to hse.gov.uk/moltenmetals/protective-clothing/index.htm for more details.

Where can I get simple Guidance on Noise, Vibration and other topics?

CHASAC is updating its guidance on a variety of topics and any published documents are listed on this website and can be accessed by clicking here. Guidance published so far includes Noise, Vibration and load security.  New documents will be uploaded to the site as they are produced.

Should you have any questions on other topics or ideas for guidance please contact the [email protected] to discuss your needs. 

Can I employ hearing impaired staff in my foundry?

In short yes.  We know that the foundry shop floor can be a noisy and hazardous environment to be in but that does not mean hearing impaired people cannot be employed.  Hearing impaired people work in a variety of hazardous industries and areas, when supported by employers and can have long and successful careers, the same as for any other person.

When considering employment, it must be remembered that the Equalities Act 2010 takes effect even before the interview.  It may be necessary to have an interpreter to assist or other technologies to ensure effective communication.  It is wise to conduct the interview in a quiet office where there is less noise intrusion.  In the interview speak normally but clearly without obscuring your mouth, as it may be the interviewee will be using lip-reading to assist them.  Using technologies such as tablets or mobile phones may help as conversation can take place using typed language.

Your risk assessments may need to be reviewed to take into account there would be a person potentially more vulnerable than other employees, so extra provisions may need to be in place and or systems of work adapted to allow the new employee to work safely.  Things to consider include that specific frequencies only may be impaired, such that in some areas hearing may be more or lesser affected by plant and machinery in use.  Hearing loss can also vary ear to ear so the orientation of the individual at their work station may make a difference, as to what can or cannot be heard.  An example being that induction furnaces may have effects on hearing aids, causing further discomfort.

Employers may need to make reasonable adjustments to enable the hearing impaired person to work safely with others.  Consider the individual and get them involved with any risk assessments, as all good assessments should include the people doing the task.  Does the individual have a preferred way of communicating with others, for example?

Examples of adjustments made by foundries where hearing impaired persons already work include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing the time spent on the induction process and as part of induction, providing additional written materials including plans of the working areas, escape routes etc. for the individual to be able to take away and study in their own time.
  • Implementing a light alarm system around the site (Production, corridor and welfare facilities) or individual alert, which is connected to the fire system. This ensures the individual is alerted to the danger and the requirement to evacuate the building. Vibrating pager units worn by the individual linked to the fire alarm system alert them.  Fire risk assessments have been reviewed and amended to ensure designated people are responsible for helping individuals when it comes to fire evacuation.
  • Implementing a buddy system to ensure the individual is not in a position to be lone working. Due to welfare facility issues this may require careful consideration. A back up person would also be required to be able to work with the individual in the event the normal buddy cannot.
  • Teaching sign language to supervisors and managers. Additionally, simple things such as ensuring masks can be removed and people speak clearly can help individuals who use lip-reading as part of their method of communicating.
  • Ensuring people are segregated from moving vehicles has been given greater focus and FLT drivers have been reminded of the need to allow for the fact that some people may not hear a horn and the driver might have to get off the FLT to ask an individual to move safely out of the way before working nearby.
  • Providing a workstation that is designed to be away from moving vehicles or other hazards such as overhead cranes etc. but that ensures the individual is still very much one of the team.
  • Training materials in writing and ensuring training is delivered by the same people so that over time a natural ability to help develop communication has taken place. Allow additional time for training as many people read more slowly than they can speak.  It is difficult to read text and use sign-language at the same time for many.  Video clips and photographs that can be used to illustrate key parts of the individual’s tasks have been produced.  Producing training materials in this way also helps when employing others whose first language may not be English.
  • Change phone systems for those individuals who are office based, to allow for hearing aids and facilities such as video calling, to enable sign language to be used.

There are numerous charities and organisations you can contact for advice and assistance.

Some of these include:

Action on Hearing Loss – www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk  or tel. 0333 240 5658 or e-mail [email protected] .

The HSE have a micro-site within the main site – www.hse.gov.uk/disability/

While we are an industry where we have some unique hazards that may present problems for hearing impaired workers, there should be very few cases where risk assessments cannot be completed and reasonable adjustments made to enable the person and others to work safely.

Health and safety should not be a bar to disabled people working

Should you have a question of your own, please complete the form on the contact page and your question/s will be forwarded to the SHIFT Administrator who in confidence will seek the appropriate answer direct from HSE.