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Working Safely and Smart in Machine Shops

A tragic incident which occurred at Yale University recently serves as a powerful reminder that personal safety must be your top priority when working in laboratories or shops at Columbia. The incident involved a student who was reported to have been working alone in a machine shop when her hair was caught and pulled into a lathe; a machine that has rotating mechanical parts integral to its function of shaping metal or wood.  Tragically, the student died as a result of her injuries.
While further investigation into the specific circumstances of this incident is ongoing, please always remember power tools and machinery can be dangerous when not used properly.  Working safely is the first thing the user or operator must learn - the safe way is the correct and only way to work!  Always follow general safety measures (check EH&S website) when working with machine shop tools/equipment, for example:   

  • Always attend training and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s hand book for the machine you are using.  Work safely or don’t work at all.
  • Never work alone.  Always use the “buddy system” when working in any machine shop.
  • Restrain hair & loose fitting clothing and secure or remove dangling ID badges & jewelry (watches, rings, bracelets). 
  • Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the task at hand, such as eye, ear, hand, & foot protection. 
  • Always use the equipment’s shields, machine guards, or other safeguards. Never remove or disable shields, machine guards, or safety devices.
  • Keep hands & body clear when operating or working near machines with moving parts.
  • Never power-up equipment that is not or may not be working properly. Check with the shop manager or your supervisor.

Equipment or machinery should never be used until the user is trained and knowledgeable about its safe operation.  Consult the shop or lab manager and manufacturer’s manual BEFORE working with unfamiliar equipment for specific operating and safety procedures.