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.
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).
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
The illustration shows the hazardous zones of a metal turning lathe. The coloured zones are numbered 1 to 6 and the guidance information below explains the hazards, risks and recommended control measures for each zone.
Employees can become entangled on uneven surface of chuck or workpiece when spinning.
Where appropriate, install guarding with interlocking.
Note: Employers must ensure guarding does not stop employees using the lathe in a safe manner or block the view of the task. Where multiple chucks are used, guarding should cover the swing of the lathe, not the size of a chuck.
Employees can become entangled in exposed lead and feed screws when the lathe is in operation, particularly if the lathe is being used by a number of users with various levels of experience, for example, in a learning institution.
Where appropriate, ensure lead and feed screws are guarded.
Employees who are inexperienced, lack training or adequate supervision are at risk of injuring themselves and others by becoming entangled in moving parts of the lathe or using poorly fitted chucks and work pieces that can become projectiles.
Ensure all operators are appropriately trained and competent before beginning work on the lathe.
Ensure inexperienced operators are supervised by a competent person.