Safe use of metal turning lathes

Metal turning lathes have killed and injured operators. Guidance on this page can help employers identify and control risks from the use of metal turning lathes.

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.

Plant and your legal duties

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

Illustration of metal turning lathe with hazard zones

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.

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Zone 4

Zone 5

Zone 6

General hazards, risks and controls

Environment

Training and supervision hazards

Maintenance and repair hazards

Personal protective equipment hazards