Your legal duties
Employers, self-employed persons, employees, designers, manufacturers and suppliers all have legal obligations to workplace safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).
Find out about your occupational health and safety obligations relating to plant on WorkSafe's Plant and your legal duties page.
Fatalities and injuries
Metal turning lathes have been associated with fatalities and serious injuries and both experienced and inexperienced operators have been hurt while operating lathes.
Also known as centre or engine lathes, metal turning lathes are common in the manufacturing industry. The lathes hold metal workpieces and rotate them at high speed while special cutting tools reshape the spinning metal.
Metal turning lathe hazards
The most common causes of death and injury from metal lathes include:
- entanglement of clothing in moving parts, such as drive gears, chucks, lead and feed screws and the workpiece
- being hit by loose objects on the lathe, such as chuck keys, tools or swarf
- entanglement from inappropriate tooling and polishing techniques
- being struck by a workpiece that has not been adequately secured in the lathe or is oversized
Guidance on this page provides examples of the main hazards and risks while using a metal turning lathe. It also includes a list of recommended controls. The zone numbers in the guidance refer to the numbered and coloured zones in the lathe diagram below.
Before introducing the recommended controls, employers should consider what the lathe is used for and whether the control is appropriate for their workplace.
Metal turning lathe risk controls
Figure 1 shows the hazardous zones of a metal turning lathe. The coloured zones are numbered from 1 to 6 and the guidance information below explains the hazards, risks and recommended control measures for each zone.
- Hazard: Workpiece extends beyond the headstock.
- Hazard: Exposed drive mechanisms, including the pulley, belts and gears.
- Hazard: Lathe controls can only be reached by passing hand through working zone.
- Hazard: Lack of function markings on controls.
- Hazard: Placement of controls does not follow the machining process.
- Hazard: Unsecured tools and objects stored or placed on the headstock.
- Hazard: Exposed chuck.
- Hazard: Chuck key left in chuck.
- Hazard: Chuck jaws unable to securely clamp the workpiece.
- Hazard: Chuck has not been adequately secured to the spindle.
- Hazard: Mounting and removing heavy chucks and faceplates.
- Hazard: Use of a chuck that is not compatible with lathe and/or task specifications.
- Hazard: Chucks and faceplates used on the lathe are damaged or have catch points.
- Hazard: Oversized workpiece in self-centering chuck, also known as a three-jaw chuck.
- Hazard: Objects, for example, cutting tools and swarf, unsecured on carriage and tool post.
- Hazard: Worn or damaged tools being used on the lathe.
- Hazard: Exposed lead and feed screws. An assessment of risk will need to include the speed at which the lead and feed screws travel.
- Hazard: Unguarded protrusions on the workpiece.
- Hazard: Coupling and clamps used on the lathe are damaged or have catch points.
- Hazard: Unsupported workpieces.
- Hazard: Machining process produces continuous or unravelled cuttings.
- Hazard: Removing metal shavings, cuttings and swarf from machining area with hands.
- Hazard: Neighbouring workspaces are exposed to swarf, cuttings or workpieces during the machining process.
- Hazard: Frequent traffic, both human and machinery, passing through the work area near the operator.
- Hazard: Incorrect methods used for polishing workpieces with emery cloth.
General hazards, risks and controls
- Hazard: Lack of or poorly placed emergency stop button or pedal to bring lathe to immediate standstill.
- Hazard: Loose clothing, cuffed or rolled back sleeves, neckties, jewellery, including watches, and long hair.
- Hazard: Inappropriate type and position of lighting.
- Hazard: Untidy and unorganised working environment.
Training and supervision hazards
- Hazard: Poorly trained and supervised operators machining on the lathe.
Maintenance and repair hazards
- Hazard: Lack of power isolation switch that can be locked out.
Personal protective equipment hazards
- Hazard: Wearing gloves while using the lathe.
- Hazard: Operating the lathe without safety glasses.
- Hazard: Working on heavy workpieces or lathe parts without steel-capped safety shoes.