Serious incidents have occurred where workers were drawn-in and entangled in metalworking lathes when using emery cloth. The incidents occurred when applying emery cloth directly to the work piece by hand or holding an emery cloth strip by hand. These incidents resulted in serious and permanent injuries to workers such as broken bones, dislocations, lacerations, amputations, and occasionally death.

Image of emery cloth and other metalworking tools
Emery cloth strips.

Key considerations

Moving parts in machinery are a safety hazard. When operating a machine such as a metalworking lathe, you must  keep clothing and body parts clear of the danger zone.

When working with lathes, dressing or polishing using hand-held techniques is contrary to accepted machine safety practices and exposes workers to the risk of serious injury or death.

Actions required

Before using emery cloth, carry out a risk assessment to determine the safest method to achieve the required surface finish.

Ask yourself:

  • Will the finish effect function or is it cosmetic?
  • Are other, less risky methods available to achieve the finish (eg a better machine tool or a purpose designed polishing, honing or linishing machine)?

If you can't eliminate the hazard, minimise the risks as far as reasonably practicable:

  • Use a specialised tool that can be placed in the tool post and is purpose designed to apply emery cloth to the work piece (eg include clamps that hold a looped strip of emery cloth, or adjustable devices that apply emery cloth against a workpiece).
  • Wrap emery cloth around a holding device that is held in a boring bar holder. The boring bar holder is then held in the tool post.
  • Do not wear gloves or loose clothing when working with manual metalworking lathes.
  • Do not hold any part of the tool or emery cloth in place by hand. Emery cloth should never be applied or held by hand to a rotating workpiece.
Image of a linishing lathe
An emery cloth used on a linishing lathe.

Further information

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