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Are Computer Numerical Control Processes Dangerous?

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By Author: Sterling Brenner
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CNC (computer numerical control) processes are among the latest technologies to be found in use throughout many manufacturing companies. Recognised as revolutionary technology, many businesses in the industrial maintenance sector are seeing the superior safety that these machines offer, over other traditional processes that have been historically used for similar applications.

Despite the improved safety of CNC technology over conventional methods, there are still inherent risks involved.
Risks that can pose a serious danger to worker safety, and in worst case scenarios, lead to the loss of limbs or even lives. The following is everything you need to know about CNC process risks that business owners and workers need to be aware of.

Understanding CNC processes

For those that aren’t familiar with CNC processes, they are primarily concerned with machines that are built for the purpose of recording digitized data, machine automation, and the monitoring of movements of a specific machine. There are numerous types of machines in the mechanical services industry that can use CNC, such as a milling machine, lathe, router, welder, grinder, laser, or even a waterjet cutter. CNC machines are tasked with ensuring that the cutting or welding processes are accurate and precise.

While CNC does provide workers with an exceptional degree of precision over older processes, the jobs still present a number of potential hazards.

Mechanical risks

Firstly, there are mechanical risks. These are the dangers posed by the machine when it is in motion and are of particular concern to mechanical engineers. The machines that make use of CNC, generally operate at very high speeds, and there is simply no margin for human error. Machine operators must be highly focused and alert at all times to reduce the likelihood of personal injury.

Mechanical related injuries are not just limited to those with relatively little experience, either. Even industry veterans who have been operating the machinery for many years are still susceptible to injury, if they’re not careful. There are many such cases where experienced workers become distracted by something or lose concentration for a moment, only to suffer unspeakable harm. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of injury when working with dangerous mechanical equipment, companies are advised to ensure that all workers are highly trained and that less experienced personnel are supervised while undertaking more precarious tasks.

Health risks

The second type of risk posed by CNC machinery, are health risks. This is of particular concern with drilling machines, where the penetration of materials results in the emission of toxic fumes or other microscopic particles that can be accidentally inhaled by workers, if the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t worn. Along with the inhalation of dangerous fumes, burns, cuts, and skin irritation are also common health risks when working with CNC machines.

Another health problem that workers of certain jobs can be vulnerable to, is a loss of hearing. This typically happens when the machinery is loud and the workers either haven’t been provided with adequate hearing protection or have chosen to ignore company protocol by neglecting to wear the supplied PPE fear. When exposed to high decibel machinery over an extended period of time without appropriate protection, hearing loss is likely to occur.

Other risks

Beyond mechanical and health related risks, there are also other risks that operators of dangerous machinery can be susceptible to, even when they are not directly operating the equipment. This includes accidental falls in the vicinity of the machine, which can inadvertently cause them to fall into the path of the working machine. Other instances can involve the accidental movement of an arm of leg near to the machine’s operation, resulting in the appendage being crushed, cut, or destroyed altogether. Being cautious around high-risk machinery at all times is absolutely crucial, and ensuring the floor around the machine is free from any spillages that could cause a fall, will help to reduce unforeseen accidents from occurring.

Electrical malfunction is another major cause of worker injuries and fatalities. Poorly maintained devices with defective electrical components, can cause electrocution to unsuspecting workers operating in the vicinity of the equipment. Like mechanical risks, there is no way for a worker to completely protect themselves from the threat of electrical related dangers.

The final word

While CNC technology is certainly improving the manufacturing industry, the operation of manufacturing equipment still carries a number of risks. These include mechanical, health and other risks that can occur as a consequence of unsafe operating environments, such as floor spillages and defective electrical wiring. All three of these risk categories are capable of resulting in serious injury or in extreme cases, loss of life. Many manufacturing machines are inherently dangerous and the risk of bodily harm cannot be eliminated, while humans continue to operate the machinery. However, the risk of harm can be reduced by ensuring the correct personal protective equipment is worn at all times and all workers have the necessary training to perform their tasks.

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