Metal cutting shears

Metal cutting shears are used for cutting scrap metal to a suitable size for handling and transport to a metal recovery operation. Sometimes they are constructed as an alligator shear or a shearing and baling press. In a shearing and baling press, the closing lid forms a shear with the side of the baling press.

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Usually, the cut off piece will fall into the baling press, or be collected in a bin placed near an alligator shear.

The blade starts at one side of the metal placed on the anvil, similar to the action of scissors. Some shears are integrated with a press to form cut metal into blocks, and those blocks are often sized for placing into a furnace for recycling.

Figure 1: Metal cutting shears

[edit] Metal cutting shears with labels and red arrows pointing to key components

Figure 2: Metal cutting shearing and baling press

[edit] Worker wearing safety gear operating metal cutting shears and baling press

Hazards

  • Contact with scrap metal
  • Entrapment from moving parts
  • Entrapment from contact with blades and bending metal
  • Contact, impact or entrapment from moving parts/unwanted movement
  • Noise
  • Leaking hydraulic hoses
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Entrapment or impact from unexpected movement (during maintenance, cleaning & repairs)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • Ear protection
  • Eye protection
  • Hand protection

Tasks

Task – Load & unload

Hazard

Contact with scrap metal

Harm

  • Cuts
  • Eye irritation or damage

Controls

  • Scrap metal MUST be collected without a need to reach into the shears or any related press.
  • WEAR eye protection.

Sharp edges may cut. Scrap metal with a brittle coating is likely to spray hard chips of coating material as it is cut.

Hazard

Entrapment from moving parts

Harm

  • Trapped hands or fingers

Controls

  • ISOLATE point of closure at the clamp and blade using distance guards and a method to secure the metal.

Task – Make the cut

Hazard

Entrapment from contact with blades and bending metal

Harm

  • Deep cuts or amputation of fingers or hands

Controls

  • DEFINE a “no go” area. Hands MUST be prevented from reaching beneath blades.
  • PLACE a distance table to minimise the chance of reaching to the blade, and to support metal while it’s cut.
  • When it’s not possible to use a clamp to hold metal, SET vertical metal stops in the fixed part of the shear or anvil, close to the cut.
  • The operator MUST control any blades they can directly reach.

Metal cutting shears usually have mechanical or hydraulic prime movers. Energy for the blade in hydraulic shears comes from pressure in a hydraulic ram – hydraulic oil flowing into the ram controls the tool movement and speed. Hands can be trapped when metal bends as it is sheared.

Hazard

Contact, impact or entrapment from moving parts/unwanted movement

Harm

  • Crush injuries
  • Bruising
  • Fractures

Controls

  • FIX a distance guard to prevent reaching into moving parts.
  • PROVIDE support for metal parts that may fall and cause injury.
  • If there is a chance that shears may fall, the raised lid MUST be chocked while people reach beneath it.
  • COVER any pedals to minimise the chance of an unintentional start.
  • ISOLATE ALL hazards, including moving parts of the hydraulic ram, and access to any press working with the shears.

Other (non-mechanical) hazards

Hazard

Noise

Harm

  • Hearing damage or loss

Controls

  • REDUCE noise levels by isolating machines or enclosing within noise barriers.
  • ASSESS noise levels.
  • ARRANGE hearing screenings.
  • ALWAYS WEAR hearing protection.

A safe noise level over an eight hour day is 85dB(A). Metal cutting shears may exceed this noise intensity.

Hazard

Leaking hydraulic hoses

Harm

  • Leakages may seep into skin
  • Hand pain
  • Tissue and muscle damage
  • Puncture wounds

Controls

  • Leaking oil, or bulging or abraded hose walls, MUST have faulty parts replaced.
  • DO NOT use hands or fingers to detect hydraulic oil leaks.
  • If oil seeps onto anyone’s skin, or someone working near hydraulic oil under pressure thinks they were bitten by an insect, they MUST be TAKEN to hospital, with full information presented to medical staff.
  • APPLY a programme preventive maintenance (hydraulic hoses and hydraulic hose couplings).

May leak with high pressure jets of oil.

Hydraulic oil under pressure will penetrate skin, even seeping through leather gloves

Hazard

Slips trips and falls

Harm

  • Potential for hands to be trapped
  • Cuts
  • Bruising

Controls

  • KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
  • KEEP the area around shears clear of slip and trip hazards.

Task – Maintenance, cleaning & repairs

Hazard

Entrapment or impact from unexpected movement

Harm

  • Cuts
  • Bruising
  • Fractures

Controls

  • LOCK-OUT ALL power supplies before maintenance, cleaning and repairs.
  • PROVIDE support for metal parts that may fall and cause injury.
  • KEEP written safety procedures.
  • ARRANGE regular inspections by a competent person.
  • REMOVE machines that fail inspection, and DO NOT USE until repaired or replaced.
  • When a shear is altered, a new hazard assessment MUST be performed, and safety improvements made.

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Metal cutting shears (PDF 338 KB)