Health And Safety In Metal Workshops Environmental Sciences Essay

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According to the ILO, some 2.3 million workers around the world die due to work-related accidents or diseases every year. That is an average of around 6000 deaths daily. There are also around 340 million cases of occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses each year and frequent estimates have show an increase of accidents and ill health.

1.1 Health and safety in metal workshops

Metal works has proved to be a necessity in the manufacturing, construction and other such industries. Since prehistoric times till this modern era, metalwork has evolved into a massive industry and gained a large influence on the global economy. Metals are used in a huge range of products in this modern time. Their use is largely dependent on their properties. For example aluminium is used in manufacturing of automobiles, whereas iron is used in the construction sector. In this modern world, no one can say that he does not have a piece of metal at home or has never been in need for some metal work at any occasion.

Metal consumption in the world, as the other resources is rising rapidly. This is due to the growth in population and rising wealth (Norgate T.E and Rankin W.J, 2002). This increase in demand has led to an increase in the number of metal workshops around the globe. Its effect can also be felt in Mauritius. Metal workshops have grown up like mushrooms all around the island, to meet the demand of the market for more metal works. How many people have ever wondered how and in what conditions metal work is being performed?

Most formal enterprises abide by the current legislations governing the health and safety in Mauritius, the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 also known as the OSHA-2005 and its other relevant regulations. The employers make use of good safety and health practices and this has been proved to be an enriching experience. The has been considerable decrease in the number of absenteeism and number of accidents, resulting in less money loss in terms of non-payment of injury leaves, compensation, work days lost and any other legal suits.

In Mauritius, there are many small metal workshops. Those are operated by people having little or no concept of health and safety at work. The workers are often working alone and in some cases students are employed to work during school holidays.

The people working therein are more concerned about having their salary at the end of the month with giving much attention to their personal safety, but what would happen if the latter is injured or if they become so ill due to exposure to any substance that become bed ridden or even die? What would be the impact on the latter's family?

1.2 Wastes in metal workshops

During machining in a metal workshop waste is generated. Most of the waste is from the raw material which is the metal being fabricated. The metal wastes that are generated vary greatly in form. They have different shapes and sizes ranging from large unusable pieces of metal to dust particles. Other sources of wastes are used oil, grease, wood, chemicals, paint containers, grinding discs, used electrodes (from arc-welding), solvents and other office products such as paper. Accumulation of these may pose as a hazard to health and safety of the workers present in the workshop and also affect the environment.

1.3 Problem statement:

The alarming rise in the number of accidents in working environment shows some lacking in the management of health and safety at the workplace. A metal workshop is a place full of hazards and if precautionary measures are not taken, these may result in incidents or accidents.

Also if wastes are not being managed properly, it may cause harm to the environment and for the enterprise itself it is money lost in terms of unused material and it requires a place to be disposed of. Some employers have no idea about how to dispose of the materials and in informal sectors some enterprises dump all the wastes that are not taken by the municipal waste carriers.

1.4 Aims:

The study will firstly provide an analysis of how health and safety is being managed in metal workshops and will provide remedial measures so as to decrease the number of accidents.

The second purpose of the study is to give an understanding of how wastes from metal workshops are being managed and to provide recommendations so as to improve the efficiency in the waste management practices. It will focus mainly on the wastes generated in the metal workshops only.

1.5 Objectives:

Identify the sources of

health and safety hazards,


Identify the impacts of

health and safety hazards on the employees and,

waste on the environment

Identify how the

health and safety and,

wastes are being managed

Assess the level of awareness related to

Health and safety, and

Waste management

Evaluation of

health and safety management and,

waste management

Provide recommendation on better ways to manage

health and safety and,

waste management

Chapter two

2.0 Literature review

2.1 What is health and safety?

Health and safety is basically the provision and maintenance of a safe and sound working environment.

2.2 Health and safety in the informal sector

For this study, safety and health in metal workshops can be classified as part of the informal sector. The ILO introduced the concept of informal sector around 25 years ago. In 1972, an ILO employment mission report in Kenya found that migration from countryside to cities resulted in urban unemployment. This is the reason why rural migrants and urban dwellers find employment in the small scale and micro-level production and distribution of goods and services. These largely unrecognised, unrecorded and unregulated small-scale activities constitute the informal sector.

According to the ILO, the informal can be characterised as a range of economic units in the urban areas, which are mainly operated and owned either in partnership with members of the same family or by individuals alone. It employs one or more employees on a continuous basis in addition to unpaid family worker and/or casual workers. The employer-employee relationship is often not in written and informal with no or little appreciation of workers' rights industrial relations. The works performed are mainly labour intensive and require low-level skills. Typically they operate on a small-scale with no or very little level of organisation. They are engaged in the production and distribution of goods and services with main objective of generating employment and basic income.

In Mauritius, all organisations that are known and registered as forming part of the formal sector, have to comply with the norms and procedures established for them by the different authorities. They are subjected to regular inspections by the various institutes to monitor their level of compliance and in case of abnormalities; they may subjected to fines and other types of penalties. On the other hand, unregistered organisations form part of the informal sector. So, you can imagine that the small metal workshop at the corner of the street where you live forms part of the informal sector and its existence may not even be known to the authorities. Have you ever thought about how many such workshops are in Mauritius? The number of persons working therein and the level of safety?

2.3 The norms

Section 5 of the OSHA-2005 stipulates that an employer has the responsibility to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.

It also includes the following;

The employer shall provide and maintain a working environment and any plant or system of work and ensure that any place of work is under his control, including access and egress therein.

He should ensure the safety and health of the workers during use, handling, storage or transportation or materials and substances.

He should provide and maintain facilities and arrangements for the welfare at work of his employees.

He should ensure the provision of information, instruction, training and supervision as required for the safety and health of the employees.

He shall also ensure that any person not in his employment is not exposed to any risk to his safety and health.

Section 13 of the OSHA-2005 stipulates that any self-employed person shall conduct his work in such a way so as to ensure the health and safety of his workers and any other persons who may be affected.

2.4 Compliance with the norms

The creation of a safe working environment starts by oneself. Health and safety is present in Mauritius but was not paid a heed few years ago because many persons were not even aware of its existence. It is now that people are becoming more aware about it. Non-compliance with OSHA-2005 means contravention and is an offence which is punishable by Law. According to the Act, any offence under the Act may be punished by a fine of not more than Rs.75, 000 and an imprisonment of not more than one year.

Although the terms of the Act are set out in simple English, it is very difficult to implement it as requires heavy investments and the employer become less willing to invest because they find it annoying and not profitable to abide by set standards. The registered enterprises are frequently visited by relevant authorities that see to it that the norms are being respected.

2.5 Metal fabrication process

Metal fabrication processes involve raw materials and range of tools to give shape to desired metal products. These processes can be categorized into cold, warm and hot working based on the temperature they are being processed. Hot working is the process that depends on control heat applied to change the physical properties of the metal piece and cold working is the application of direct physical pressure (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1995). Metals are present in the daily basic objects such as paper clips, computers, bolts, nails, and automobile parts, parts used for instruments and machinery and numerous other products and to transform metals in these objects, metals pass through a series of manufacturing procedures such as cutting, forming, and finishing, bending, punching, drilling, turning, grinding and threading. (Johnson, 2008)

The main procedures in metal fabrication are as follows:

2.5.1 Metal Forming

Forging: is the process of working metal with applying force to give shape to the metal, this include the use of forging hammer or drop hammer, press forging, forging machine such as drop hammer, screw press, crank press, hydraulic press.

Rolling: is the process whereby compressive force is applied on long metalwork to reduce the thickness its cross section, this cane be done either by hot rolling or cold rolling procedures.

Extrusion: is the process where high pressure is used to force a metal block or billet to flow through o die orifice whereby the metal is reduced in cross section. Extrusion is used to give cylindrical shaped or hollow bars of metal. The amount of forced required during the process is huge so metals are generally hot extruded.

Bending: is a flexible process to deform metal changing its shape, the metal is stressed beyond the yield force but lesser than its tensile strength which is done by of applying force through hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical machines. 

Spinning: is a process that produces rotationally symmetrical hollow parts, hemispheres, cones and cylinders shapes. Generally metal spinning is a cold process done by manual, automated or hydraulic equipment.

2.5.2 Shearing

Conventional shearing: is the process used to cut straight lines on flat metal sheet stock.

Turret Punching: is a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) process use to make hole in metal sheet. This is a cold process where the metal properties are unchanged since they are not exposed to thermal impact.

2.5.3 Material Removal

Sawing: is the process whereby a tool with tooth blade is use to cut metal. This is a basic way of cutting metals into desired pieces and with time the simple handsaw has been designed into different saws such as horizontal band saws, vertical band saws, pivot arm band saws, plate/block band saws, steel circular saws, non ferrous circular saws, and power hacksaws.

Turning: is the process where the diameter is reduced by removal of the outer part of a rotating metal work piece.

Drilling: is the process to pierce hole in metal work piece n accordance to the specification of the desired bore or ream.

Milling: is the process where a rotating cutter is use to cut the metal which is fed against the rotating cutter.

Grinding: is the process whereby there is removal of metal by abrasion from bar or billet stock surfaces.

2.5.4 Advance Methods

Laser cutting: is the process where metal is vaporized in a well defined area; the cutting source is very small which allows small cut widths. The laser beam can be use to cut very hard or abrasive metals and is very cost effective since there is a low operating and maintenance cost.

Waterjet Machining: in this process a water jet cutter is used as tool to slice metal with a jet of water under a high velocity and pressure. The cutter is generally place at the nozzle where water will be ejected under high pressure, bombarding the metal cutting it with the high water speed.

Electrical Discharge Machining(EMD): is the process which is also known as spark erosion, whereby electrical energy is used to remove metal this result in shapes that cannot be produced by other machining process on thin metal piece.

Wire Discharge Machining (WEMD): is a more precise process of cutting metal where electrical energy and a small diameter cooper or brass wire is used. Generally it is a computer numerically controlled (CNC) process.

2.5.5 Welding and Joining

Arc Welding: is the process where a welding power is established between an electrode the metal that need to be welded. During welding a shielding gas (inert or semi inert gases) or filler metals are used as a protection. The fusion process takes place to bond the desired parts of metals by high intense heat, whereby the metals melt on heating to mix together and on cooling they solidify to form a metallurgical bond.

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): in this process a stick welding is used which is coated whit flux that produces the gas shield as protection. Here also the fusion of the metal is done by melting produced by the heat of the arc between the coated electrode and the metal piece.

Laser Beam Welding (LBW): is the process whereby metals are radiated by a concentrated beam of coherent light to melt the desired parts. As in arc welding it is protected by inert gases.

Gas-metal Arc welding(GMAW)or (MIG) : a process which is mostly known as Metal Inert Gas welding done with the use of a wire and electrode where a an electric arc is generated to melt the wire to feed the weld puddle. A flow of inert gas is use as shield.

Fluxed cored Arc welding (FCWA): the process commonly known as fluxed cored uses a long continuous solid wire incorporated in the welding gun. The wire is coated with flux that produces the arc, additives to weld and slag. The shield is a mixture of carbon dioxide and inert gas and large amount of fume is produced.

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW): the process involve the use of tungsten electrode to produce the electric arc. In this process the electrode is not consumed as in (SMAW). The gas shielding is a mixture of argon and helium and no metal filler may be use.

Electroslag Welding (ESW): in this process the joining of the metal is done by passing electric current in a molten conductive slag that heat up the filler and metal. This process is generally use to join very thick metal

2.6 Health effects

Hazardous materials are likely to be found in a metal fabrication. These can directly or indirectly affect the health of the workers either by contact or absorption in the body. Moreover when assessing the potential health effects with those materials that the workers are exposed to, it is important to understand the difference between toxicity and hazards.

2.6.1 Toxicity:

Toxicity is the ability of a particular substance to produce an unwanted effect when the chemical has reached a sufficient concentration at a certain part of the body.

2.6.2 Hazards:

Hazards is the possibility that this concentration of the chemical in the body will likely to occur.

However, a material can be very dangerous but not hazardous to its exposure. It all depend whether it is properly handled and not contacting with the body. On the other side, a material can be low toxic but very hazardous to health and safety.

2.7 Routes of entry:

The four common routes of entry are as follows:

Inhalation via respiratory track

Skin contact via dermal contact

Ingestion through the digestive system


2.7.1 Inhalation via respiratory track:

It is a situation where the body is taking materials in the body by breathing. This is the most common mean by which chemical particles enter the body. These contaminants are likely to have both acute and chronic effects. Breathing in of these toxic substances in most cases is likely to cause damage to the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat, lungs and circulatory system. These can happen for example during welding where fumes are generated.

2.7.2 Skin contact via dermal contact:

The skin is known to be the largest organ of the human body and provides protection against radiation, heat and abrasion and acts as a barrier to chemicals and bacteria. Skin contact is known as the primary route of entry into the body. Contact with hazardous substances may damage the skin. There are a number of conditions that may be caused by exposure to the different substances ranging from minor irritations to ulceration and cancer.

2.7.3 Ingestion through the digestive system:

This is the least common type of exposure in occupational environment, but can happen as a due to carelessness or poor personal hygiene i.e. when the workers eat or drink in the workplace or without washing their hands. In metal workshops the workers are likely to ingest the metal particles that can be found on their hands or deposited on their food.

2.7.4 Injection:

This occurs when substances are absorbed directly through cuts or injury with contaminated sharp objects. In metal workshops cuts and bruises are most likely to happen during handling of the materials. In most cases, these small incidents are normally not taken into consideration due to its nature as the works are not affected by it, but the danger is that by not taking care of it, an infection may occur having significant impact on the workers health, hence affecting work as well.

2.8 Physical hazards

2.8.1 Noise

Sound is a vibration that can be perceived by ear similarly noise is perceived by the ear but as an unwanted sound. A more appropriate definition noise is any disturbance produced within a range of frequency (NIOSH, 1991). Noise arises during most activity done by human, when measuring the impact on human health noise is categorized under occupational noise or environmental noise (WHO, 2004).

Noise is generated by almost every equipment, machine or tool used in metal fabrication industry example motors, gears, belts and pulleys, point of operation during cutting, welding and vibrations of footing and equipments or piece of metal being worked. Noise can be controlled by being in line to the hierarchy of control, in first instance by good maintenance of machines, equipments and tools and by applying engineering controlled such as isolation, stabilizing and damping. To further reduce noise segregation control may be opted so that a minimum number of employees may be affected, the equipments may be enclosed so as much of noise is absorbed or reflected within barriers. Hearing protection equipment may be provided to employees depending on the nature of the operations such as protection for metal grinder, welding and sheet metal fabrication. Last but not the least it is the management responsibility to ensure and implement an effective hearing conservation program. ( AmTrust Financial, n.d)

2.8.2 Heat stress

Heat stress is said to be a serious type of physical hazard that should be considered in metal workshops especially during summer seasons. It occurs when workers do some operations in high air temperatures, high humidity or when they are having physical contact with hot objects. While working in these conditions, workers have to wear protective clothing which is likely to cause heat stress. (Reese, C.D, 2001)

2.8.3 Cold stress

According to NIOSH, cold stress arises when workers who are expose to cold or working in a cold environment. When temperature goes down, thus the body maintains its temperature by reducing blood flow through the skin. The most extreme effect that the workers may get is on the extremities (fingers, toes, earlobes and nose).when fingers become cold they become numb and insensitive and this may increased the possibility of having accidents in the workplace.(Reese,C.D,2001)

2.8.4 Radiation

Radiation can be classified according to the effects that it produced to the matter. There two types of radiation which are ionizing and non ionizing. (ILO, n.d)Ionizing radiation is produced by high voltage devices which can be present in metal workshops which can affect the workers. (NIOSH.n.d). Non ionizing radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that can have various effect on the body, which depend on the on the particular wavelength of the radiation being involved. (Reese, C.D, 2001)


Vibrating tools and the equipment that are being used at frequencies between 40 and 90 hertz can cause damage to the circulatory and the nervous systems. One of the most common Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) results from vibration is the Raynaud's Syndrome. It is the most common symptoms leading to numbness and tingling in the finger that is the skin turns pale, ashen and cold, and thus this leads to eventual loss of sensation and the control in the fingers and hands. (Reese, C.D, 2001)

2.8.6 Confine space

In 1979, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a Criteria Document providing recommendations for working in confined spaces where it defines confine space as a space where the design has limited openings for the entry as well as for the exit. The examples of confine space are tunnel, manhole, utility vaults, storage tanks and silos. There are different fatalities that may occur in a confine space where death may occur from different causes such as asphyxiation, the inhalation of toxic gases or vapors, drowning, falling, from explosions, or contact with either mechanical or electrical energy.

2.9 Ergonomic hazards

Working posture is very important when workers are doing their jobs in a workplace. Poor working posture is said to be an ergonomic hazards as it can cause fatigue, discomfort and injury risk in the working environment when workers are doing repetitive work, the use of force and also the duration of the work. Some examples are outstretched arms, twisting, and fixed postures. (HSE, n.d).

2.10 Biological hazards

Biological hazards include vermin, insects, molds, fungi, viruses, and bacterial contaminants. Workers may get infections and parasitic diseases when they are exposed to insects or by drinking contaminated water. Dusts present in the metal workshops may contain many kinds of allergenic materials that can affect their health. (Reese, C.D, 2001)

2.11 Chemical hazards

Chemical hazards arise from the excessive airborne concentrations of mists, vapors, gases or solids that are present in the form of dusts and fumes. These can be source of danger to the body for example these materials may act as skin irritants or may be toxic by absorption through the skin.(Reese,C.D,2001) In metal workshops there are metal fluids that are used for some kind of processes. There are different kinds of oil product which are used in metal workshops.

2.12 Other types of hazards

2.12.1 Electrical hazards

Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States, in 1999, 278 workers died from electrocutions at work, which accounts for almost 5 percent of all on-the-job fatalities that year. Thus, they relate that most of these fatalities could have been easily avoided.

2.12.2 Mechanical hazards

Mechanical hazards are created by the powered operation of apparatus or tools. The applied power which is applied can be of either electrical or human.( Holt, Rinehart and Winston, n.d) Machinery, its parts, tools, objects and materials processed or used in the work process are often said to be a source of mechanical hazards leading to severe injuries. Machinery, along with power supply systems, can also create electrical hazards, leading to severe or fatal accidents.

2.13 Hierarchy of control

The occupational safety and health administration requires employers to protect their employees from workplace hazards such as machines, work procedures, and hazardous substances that can cause injury or illnesses. There are different ways that are used to control hazards.

2.13.1 Elimination

Elimination of the hazard is the most effective means to control the hazard in the workplace. Thus, in the workplace it is important to remove the dangerous machines to ensure a proper working environment for the workers. (Work Cover NSW, 2010)

2.13.2 Substitution

It is the second most effective way to control the hazard present in the workplace by replacing the dangerous equipment with a safer one. If there is an existing process, major changes in equipment and procedures may be required to eliminate or substitute for a hazard. (NIOSH, n.d)

2.13.3 Engineering control

Engineering controls are used to remove a hazard present in the workplace or place a barrier between the worker and the hazard. (NIOSH, n.d).There is safety guards that are present to protect the workers while using dangerous machines. (Work Cover NSW, 2010)

2.13.4 Administrative control

It is used to control the hazard through the administrative directives. (Reese C.D, 2001). In the workplace the workers are trained how to use the machines safely and precautions need to be taken when operating dangerous machinery.

2.13.4 Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last resort that can be used in the workplace. There are variety of devices and garments that are used to protect the workers from injuries. There are PPE that are designed to protect the eyes, face, head, ears, feet, hands ,arms and the whole body.(Reese,C.D,2001)

3.0 What is waste?

According to the Basel Convention, waste is any substance or material that is disposed or which is intended or required to be disposed of. The material in itself is of no use for the generator. Wastes may be produced during extraction and processing of raw materials into final products and also during the use of the final products and other human activities. (United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), n.d) Hence from the above definitions we can say that materials which are of no use to us can be considered as being waste.

3.1 Waste management in metal workshop

In metal workshops, as in the other industries, waste is likely to be produced. Improper management of these wastes may result in problems. According to the Environment Protection Act 2002, all metal workshops need to have a Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) license which clearly states the processes being undertaken and the direct and indirect impact on the environment and any action which they propose to minimize, mitigate or control the impacts. Once they have obtained the license, the workshop is visited on a regular basis by the relevant authority to ensure compliance with the terms in the EIA license.

As mentioned earlier in this study, there are various sources of waste in metal workshops. The most considerable waste is from the material being used for processing, which is the metal itself.

In Mauritius, all waste except the metals are sent in the municipal solid waste management system. The metal are collected by scrap metal carriers and sent for recycling. The sad part is that this is not the case for all the metal workshops. The formal sector abides by this practice but the informal sector sometimes indulges in dumping activities to dispose of the metal waste.

Metal is a natural resource which is undergoing heavy extraction. The Club Report and other energy crisis have lead to the fear of not being able to cope with the need in world's metal demand (Radezki, 1975).

It is important to make a distinction between resource and reserve. A resource is a naturally occurring material in the earth's crust whereas a reserve is the part of an identified resource which can be extracted or produced at the time of determination. World reserves of aluminium and iron are estimated at 3,910 and 65,000 Mt respectively, while the world resources of these metals are estimated at 11,000 and 230,000 Mt respectively (Norgate T.E and Rankin W.J, 2002 cited Dzioubinski and Chipman, 1999; US Bureau of Mines, 1995). According to the World Bank document, the reserves for iron ore would last for around 50 years and for copper and bauxite 29 years (Dr. Diederen A.M, 2009;Radetzki, 1975). This has led to an increasing concern for resource conservation and also environmental protection as the waste tends to pollute the environment. Thus, the concept of recyclability of materials is used to recycle the metal.

It is to be noted that no study has been carried out so far to evaluate how waste is being managed in metal workshops in Mauritius. Hence, we don't have much information available in this field; this is among one of the reasons why we chose this study. This research can also be used as a foundation for other people conducting research in the same field.



Research methods are the different modus-operandi that is used in a research. (Rajasekar et al, 2006). They include theoretical procedures and experimental studies among many others. Choosing and applying a proper research method is vital as it will help to evaluate and use the research results which can be valuable to local or international organisation or countries as well as its the method chosen that will help us to meet with our objectives and consequently come up with vital discussions which may improve things.

Research Approach and Design:

According to Burns and Grove (1993: 777), a quantitative research can be defined as a formal and systematic process to describe the test relationships and examine cause and their interactions on variables. Furthermore, a survey is used to collect data from a large population which are to observe directly ( Mouton 1996: 232). Quantitative research - It is established on the assessment of amount or quantity. It is only applicable to issues whereby the results obtained can be expressed in terms of quantity its main advantage is that it allows comparisons between groups and areas of study as well as it can explain and analyse dependencies between social issues.

Qualitative research - "Qualitative methods" is an umbrella term to cover the methods and techniques which haven't been able to be "quantitative". (Eshlagy et al, 2011) Qualitative methods are specifically used for three main concepts.

Qualitative research epistemologies which are non-oriented proof.

Qualitative research strategies are to interpret the relevant data rather than just analysing and evaluating.

Qualitative research techniques can't fall into numerical categories.

Another advantage of qualitative methods is the use of open-ended questions which gives participants the chance to answer in their own words. Open-ended questions can come up with responses that are:

Significantly noticeable to the participant

Unforeseen by the researcher

Affluent and analytical in nature

For this study, an quantitative approach would be used via an interview with the process engineer and an observation done by the group members which would further acquired data.