Woodworking CNC Machines
These machines operate under computer numerical control (CNC), where a magazine of woodworking tools is selected by programmed instructions. The tools shape, saw, and drill sheets of medium density fibre (MDF) board, veneered board, or items like window frames, all secured to the machine’s bed. Vacuum clamping the boards ensures physical clamps do not interfere with movement of the head or tools. Items like window frames may be held by metal clamps.
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.
Instructions are programmed into the control centre which instructs a machine head to move in three dimensions above the secured timber. The programme selects tools from the magazine, which automatically clamp into the tool holder or chuck. The chuck moves to the start point, the tool turns at its programmed speed, then begins its cut. At the end of the cut, the tool withdraws from the timber.
The tool may move to a number of positions to make cuts, and return to the magazine when another tool is chosen.
Figure 1: Woodworking CNC machine
- Contact or impact from tool carriers
- Contact, impact or piercing from thrown tools or parts
- Slips, trips & falls
- Contact, impact or entanglement from unexpected movement (during maintenance, cleaning & repairs)
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ear protection
- Eye protection
- Dust protection
Task – Tool selection
Contact or impact from tool Carriers
- FIT interlocked fencing OR a presence sensing device interlocked with the drive of the carrier, so that the tool carrier stops if intrusion is detected.
Tool carriers move quickly, in some cases 60 to 100 metres per minute. The tool carrier MUST stop if intrusion is detected.
Task – Tool selection
Contact, impact or piercing from thrown tools or parts
- Deep cuts
- DO NOT program tools to operate faster than specified speeds.
- DO NOT alter tools from their original specification.
Tools or tool parts are likely to become a projectile if the speed programmed is too great for the tool.
Other (non-mechanical) hazards
- Hearing damage or loss
- 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). A woodworking CNC machine may exceed this noise intensity.
- Eye irritation or damage
- Breathing problems, lung damage or cancer
- Worsening of existing health problems
- USE dust extraction equipment to minimise dust getting in the operator’s breathing zone.
- Vacuum cleaners MUST be designed for cleaning dust. Blowing flammable dust with compressed air will only place it elsewhere.
- ALWAYS USE respiratory protection.
- ALWAYS WEAR eye protection.
- KEEP fire extinguishers nearby and ensure operators know how to use them.
Slips trips and falls
- KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
- KEEP the area around machines clear of slip and trip hazards.
Task – Maintenance, cleaning & repairs
Contact, impact or entanglement from unexpected movement
- Serious injury
- Deep Cuts
- Crush injuries
- LOCK-OUT all power supplies before maintenance, cleaning or repairs, including electrical and pneumatic.
- KEEP written safety procedures, and arrange regular inspections by a competent person.
- LOCK-OUT machines that fail inspection, and DO NOT USE until repaired or replaced.