Industrial Press Safety Hazards


Presses are ubiquitous in factories around the world because they are very versatile. They are used in manufacturing processes such as; shearing, drawing, stamping, extrusion, bending, assembly, and punching. That versatility means that presses come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for large scale industrial purposes and also small component assembly processes.

Even with the variance in application, the main components of a press are very similar across the spectrum of use. The bed (or anvil) is the stationary base of the press. The blank stock material is generally placed on the bed. The platen (also known as a plunger, slide, or ram) is the moving part of the press and it generally contains a die that strikes the stock material and forms it to the desired shape.

There are several different methods of creating the power that enables the motion of the platen.

  • Mechanical Power. A motor, flywheel, and gearing system creates the power and connects to a crankshaft. That crankshaft connects to the platen and rotates to move the press through its full working revolution.
  • Hydraulic Power. The use of hydraulic power allows for variable press forces so the press can be set up and used for multiple operations. It also allows for very high pressures.
  • Pneumatic Power. Using compressed air as a power source does not allow for the extreme pressures of hydraulic presses.
  • Hydra-mechanical Power. These types of presses combine the mechanical and hydraulic systems.

No matter what the power source may be, the main safety hazard with any press is that the operator gets caught at the point of operation. Pinching, crushing, amputation, and even death can be caused if the operator is caught between the press and the stationary bed.

This is a general list of tasks that an operator might be responsible for.

  • Place the stock material under the press before cycling it.
  • Ensure that it is oriented correctly.
  • Activate the press.
  • Remove the finished component and waste material and start the process over.

This means that the operator is constantly putting themselves in the hazard zone of the press. Mechanical failures of the press, accidental cycling of the press, and operator error can be causes of point of operation injuries.

In order to alleviate the safety hazards inherent to presses, there are many safety features generally in place. If none of these safety features are being used on a press, the likelihood of an injury is much higher than if they are being used properly.

Safety Features:

  • Barrier Guards. Physically prevent worker from accessing point of operation.
  • Two-Hand Operation. Requires that the operator use both hands to operate the press, which prevents them from running the press with one hand and adjusting the piece with the other.
  • Pullback. Physically attaches to operators arms and pulls them out of the danger zone while the press is completing its cycle.
  • Restraints. Used when the operator needs to hold workpiece. Restraints allow them to hold the piece but their hands can never reach fully to the point of operation.
  • Type A and B Gates. Similar to guards, but open up either after full cycle (A) or after downstroke is completed (B).
  • Presence Sensing Device (aka Light Curtains). Light curtains stop operation if the curtain is interrupted and prevent hands from going near point operation while it is running.
  • Emergency Stops. Can allow operator to stop the press if he/she senses a danger.
  • Clean and Clear Work Areas. Prevent slips and falls.

There are many available safety features to avoid point of operation injuries on presses. However, the nature of the machine is still very dangerous, so operators must also be well trained in order that they correctly use the safety features and avoid the very serious safety hazards that presses present.

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