Basic Workshop Safety Training Resource

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Managing health and safety

Successfully managing health and safety in small engineering workshops is about identifying the most frequent and serious risks and adopting the right precautions, taking account of time, money and resources. This training resource identifies how most serious accidents happen, how most ill health is caused and provides basic guidance.

How most accidents & cases of work-related ill health arise

There are many thousands of accidents and cases of ill health reported every year in small engineering workshops. Almost two-thirds of all such accidents reported to HSE arise from the movement of people, goods and vehicles into, around and out of workshops.

Of these ‘movement’ accidents, about half involve lifting and moving goods and about half involve slips, trips, falls and hitting stationary or moving plant and equipment

‘Non-movement’ accidents usually arise from the use of machinery and account for between 10% and 15% of all accidents.

Electrical accidents are also not uncommon and frequently have the potential for more serious injuries than those recorded.

The most common occupational illnesses are dermatitis, deafness, asthma, vibration white finger and back, hand, arm, shoulder and neck problems.

It should only be relevant hazards that are assessed within any workshop and those likely to be of most concern include:

  • Movement of people around the workshop.
  • Movement of goods and vehicles around the workshop.
  • Manual handling.
  • Machinery safeguarding.
  • Hazardous substances.
  • Noise.
  • Vibration.

Working in and moving around the workshop

About two thirds of all accidents in small engineering workshops happen during the movement of vehicles, people and goods. A safe, well-lit, clean workplace can help prevent many of these.

Safe workplace

A safe workplace should be in good repair with suitable space for safe movement and passage to the building and machinery. Floors, corridors and stairs should be level and non-slippery, be free of obstruction and have suitable handrails and ramps where necessary. Outdoor areas should be well-lit with safe access for transport and should be kept tidy and safe.   


Poor lighting is often a factor in accidents and can also increase visual fatigue. It is recommended to have sufficient and suitable sources of light within the workshop area, natural light is preferred where possible. A good level of local lighting at workstations is also recommended where necessary.


  • Large differences in the lighting of adjacent areas.
  • Glare from direct sunlight and from directly visible lamps.
  • Strobe effects.


Slips and trips are a common cause of accident and injury. To reduce the risk of accidents occurring, a workshop should be kept clean and tidy and should have the following:

  • Clean, non-slippery, obstacle free floors and stairs.
  • Clean premises, furniture and fittings.
  • Containers for waste materials.
  • Removal of dust, refuse and trade-waste regularly.
  • Spillages cleared up promptly.
  • Internal walls/ceilings kept clean.

Lifting equipment

Lifting, supporting and handling equipment can lighten the load of manual handling when properly used. However, many accidents happen when loads are dropped from lifting equipment, either because of poor slinging, or equipment failure or overloading.


  • Ensure  the equipment is tested, in date and marked to indicate its safe working load before beginning any task.
  • Ensure lifting equipment is sufficiently strong, stable and suitable for the proposed use.
  • Only participate in a lifting manoeuvre if competent in the use of the equipment being used.
  • Ensure lifting operations are planned and conducted in a safe manner by people who are competent.
  • Ensure the weight and distribution of any load is not beyond the capacity of the equipment being used.
  • Check the condition, type and size of any eyebolts used and ensure the thread type matches the hole into which it is to be screwed.

Moving goods safely by hand

The unsafe movement of goods by hand, either by lifting or handling causes more accidents and ill health in small engineering workshops than any other single activity. Back injuries are very common as are hand, arm, shoulder and neck injuries, particularly from unsafe, highly repetitive work. Cuts and abrasions from sharp edges are also very numerous.

Manual handling

  • Avoid the need for hazardous manual lifting and handling if reasonably practicable.
  • Follow safe systems of work laid down by your employer.
  • Use mechanical aids provided properly.
  • Remember to apply in practice any training received in manual handling.

Sharp edges

These cause as much as a third of all accidents in some engineering workshops, resulting in cuts, abrasions, infected wounds, dermatitis, amputations and occasionally fractures. Those working with sheet metal, either flat or coiled, heavy sharp items, such as tools and cutters and scrap metal and swarf are most at risk. Consider how to avoid handling sharp edges, and if this is not reasonably practicable, reduce exposure to them.

Reducing the risks

  • Ask suppliers to remove or protect sharp edges.
  • Remove sharp edges or protect them before handling.
  • Avoid handling by using suitable equipment such as trays, jigs, holders or baskets.
  • Minimise handling by using automating processes such as conveyors & chutes.
  • Store articles correctly so they are retrieved easily.
  • Safely use personal protective equipment such as gloves, gauntlets and aprons.

For further information please refer to BestPump training resource: Manual Handling at Work.

Moving vehicles safely

Loading and unloading

Lorries, vans, cars and other vehicles are involved in many accidents when reversing and manoeuvring in or around workshops and whilst being loaded or unloaded with materials and goods. These accidents regularly cause injuries and occasionally deaths.

To reduce risks:

  • Ensure loading and unloading is completed safely and within the identified location.
  • Ensure loading and unloading is completed away from pedestrians as much as possible.
  • Always use vehicles in well-lit areas.
  • Ensure all vehicles travel at suitably low speed limits.
  • Only drive vehicles if trained and authorised to do so.
  • Avoid reversing or provide help for reversing drivers if possible (e.g., a guide).
  • Ensure reversing alarms are working and used when reversing any vehicle.

Accidents frequently happen when people fall from vehicles so you should avoid the need to climb on loads where possible. If it is necessary to walk on the top of high loads, suitable safety precautions should be put in place e.g., lines and harnesses.

Lift trucks

Lift trucks are involved in many accidents in engineering workshops. These are frequently caused by reversing unsafely, speeding, overloading, carrying passengers, lifting unauthorised personnel or drivers not being trained and result in many serious injuries and some deaths every year.

Safe lift truck operation includes:

  • Ensuring the lift truck is tested, in date and marked to indicate its safe working load before beginning any task.
  • Only driving the lift truck if competent and authorised to do so.
  • Using the lift truck away from pedestrians as much as possible.
  • Minimising the use of diesel trucks in enclosed confined working areas as it could lead to breathing problems.
  • Ensure operating surfaces are strong enough, well maintained and gradients are not too steep.
  • Use a second person when necessary to help with traffic if the lift truck is used on the road.
  • Not using forks, pallets or bins to lift people to work at heights unless they are suitably modified.

For further information please refer to BestPump training resource: Safe Working Within Forklift Truck Area.

Controlling hazardous substances

Exposure to hazardous substances most frequently occurs when machining, welding, painting, cleaning and degreasing. The control of dust, fume, spray and vapour and the prevention of skin contact by adequate PPE will minimise risks of adverse health effects.

Labels and material safety data sheets supplied with hazardous liquids contain valuable information to help you use them safely. A hazard may be defined as something that can cause harm, such as the chemicals in a tin of paint, while a risk may be seen as the chance of harm being done and can vary with how the paint is used. For example, spraying paint in an uncontrolled environment without personal protection could pose high levels of risk.

The risks include:

  • Breathing in dust, fumes or vapour.
  • Direct skin or eye contact.
  • Swallowing causing irritation and diseases of the skin, eyes and lungs.
  • Fires from the ignition of flammable vapours.

The risks of harm occurring are highest when using liquids containing large proportions of toxic or hazardous materials, working in confined spaces and working in unventilated open workshops.

To reduce risks:

  • Use the least hazardous materials for the job.
  • Utilise local exhaust ventilation where available.
  • Follow the rules for working in confined spaces.
  • Always look to work in ventilated areas when possible.
  • Use suitable protective clothing and eye protection.
  • Take care with solvents when cleaning brushes, spray guns etc.
  • Never eat, drink or smoke while using toxic or hazardous liquids.
  • Wash hands before eating and drinking.
  • Leave protective clothes at work to minimise harmful substances being taken home.
  • Always store harmful and dangerous liquids in suitable and safe containers.

For further information please refer to BestPump training resource: COSHH – Care of Substances Hazardous to Health.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Where PPE is needed to help control a risk to health or safety of an employee, it must be provided and maintained (including cleaning of overalls) free of charge by the employer. In turn, the employee must use all required PPE provided and should report any loss or obvious defect of PPE to the employer.

PPE is available in many forms and includes, gloves, face masks, overalls, footwear, eye protection, ear protection and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). When choosing PPE consider the type of job to be undertaken, the correct type of PPE needs to be matched to the wearer, the job, the conditions in which it is to be used and be compatible with other forms of PPE if necessary.

Regular examination, and where appropriate testing should be carried out on PPE to ensure its safe condition for use and any damaged or defective equipment should be withdrawn immediately from use and reported to the employer.

For further information please refer to BestPump training resource: PPE – Personal Protective Equipment.


Most accidents arise from contact with live conductors or equipment made live by faulty wiring and connections. Equipment using 240 V ac may be as dangerous as that using 415 V ac, depending on circumstances. Each year, the use of electricity causes fatal and other injuries from electric shock and fire.

Precautions necessary to prevent accidents require everyone in the workshop to use equipment safely and co-operate with the employer where necessary.

Safety measures include:

  • Only using equipment that you are competent with and authorised to use.
  • Selecting and using equipment which is suitable for the job.
  • Selecting and using equipment suitable for the environment you are working in.
  • Ensuring the equipment is suitable for the electrical supply.
  • Checking the electrical supply is safe to use.
  • Ensuring fixed and portable equipment is tested, in date and in good working order before use.
  • Where possible use a residual current device (RCD) between the electrical supply and the equipment.
  • Withdraw any damaged or defective equipment immediately and report any damages or defects to the employer.

For further information please refer to BestPump training resources: Electrical Safety & Safe Use of Portable Electric Equipment.

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