Power presses

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Power presses are powered equipment used to stamp, cut or form materials by the use of dies (or tools). They include equipment known as 'croppers' or 'metal workers'.

Did you know?

  • Injuries from power presses are among the most common in metal machinery workplaces. In most cases, the machine is unguarded, or the guard malfunctions, leading to serious injury, usually amputated fingertips. Young workers are especially at risk.
  • By law, all dangerous parts of power presses as far as practicable must be securely fenced or guarded to prevent access.
  • By law, manufacturers and suppliers of equipment must make available adequate information about conditions for the safe use and maintenance of their equipment.
  • Guards should also be designed to prevent work pieces or offcuts from being ejected while under pressure and expose operators to a hazard.


Adequate guards must be provided. Some power press injuries are caused by relying on the operator to synchronise the movement of their hand with the operation of the foot pedal. No amount of experience will prevent this type of accident.

Two-hand controls on their own are not an acceptable means of protection. They offer no protection to assistants or bystanders, and are easily defeated.

Guarding checklist
Check Yes No

Are the power presses in your workplace adequately guarded with the Code of practice - Managing risks of plant in the workplace? (See in particular Section 4.1 of the code) 


To prevent fingers entering the danger zone, have one or more of the following measures (listed in priority order) been taken?

  • Tools designed in a way that prevents access to any dangerous parts, such as limiting the press stroke, or designing the die or stripper, so that maximum clearance between moving parts does not exceed 6 mm. Fixed guards that prevent access to any dangerous parts.
  • Provision of automatic feeders.
  • Interlocking guards that prevent the press operating unless the guard is closed.

If fixed guards are used:

  • Are they strong and rigid?
  • Do they prevent access to dangerous parts from any direction?
  • Are they designed and fitted to ensure no secondary trapping point is created?

If a guard has to be opened during normal operation of the press, is it an interlocking guard?


If an interlocking guard is used, is it set to ensure:

  • The press cannot cycle while the guard is open?
  • The guard cannot open until the stroke is finished?
  • The interlocking guard fails to safe?

Are guards designed to ensure a good view of the tool area? Physical barrier guards should have rods that are parallel to the direction of the press stroke.



Is an appropriate guard nominated for every die? In some cases each die may require an adjustment to the guard.



Does any adjustment to the guard require a special tool? There should be no wing nuts, knurled knobs, or hexagon nuts.



Are other dangerous moving parts, such as the flywheel, gears or shafts, also guarded?


Safe work procedures

Guarding by itself will not prevent injuries. Presses must be properly used and maintained for maximum safety.

Checklist for safe work procedures
Check Yes No

Is there a safe work procedure for how to set up and operate each power press in your workplace?



Do they ensure that:

  • No guard or safety device is removed from the equipment, or prevented from working?
  • The power is disconnected and all energy sources are de-energised, the stop control positively locked in the open or stop position when clearing an obstruction from the die? Dies should be designed to reduce obstructions.
  • Hand-feeding tools such as tongs, grippers, or magnetic devices are used where appropriate to insert small parts through the guard, avoiding the need for the operator to reach into the hazard area?
  • Loose-fitting clothing that may get caught in the equipment is not worn? 
  • Areas around all power presses are kept free from obstructions and cleaned at regular intervals?
  • Spillage of oil or other materials likely to create a slipping hazard is promptly cleaned up?

Is there a safe work procedure for die-setting?

  • Die-setting is particularly hazardous, and each workplace must develop a safe work procedure.
  • Die-setting and essential maintenance are the only two jobs that should permit access to the hazardous trapping area. During these times the movement of the press ram must be set to microinch, pulse or manual mode.
  • The following are essential safe work procedures:
    • the setting or adjustment of dies must be done only by a competent and trained person;
    • the power source must be disconnected, except where power is needed for the movement of the ram, eg. by microinch control or pulse mode;
    • if a setting bar is used as a lever to rotate the press crankshaft, it should have a spring-loaded device to make sure it cannot be left unintentionally in the crankshaft;
    • before making a trial pressing, all the safety devices provided on the press must be operational and correctly set; and
    • manufacturer's instructions should be referred to for die-setting.

Other safety measures

Other safety measures checklist
Check Yes No

Are automatic or semi-automatic feed and ejection methods used where possible, avoiding the need for the operator to reach into the hazard area?



Are all controls fail safe? For example, some metal worker machines have two modes of operation - single and continuous stroke. Check that:

  • the default setting is single stroke; and
  • single stroke can only be changed to continuous with a special tool.

Are all start and stop controls clearly marked?



Is an appropriate 'power on' indicator provided?

Are foot-operated controls:
  • Designed to minimise the possibility of accidental operation? 
  • Constructed and placed so the operator is standing or sitting in a balanced and comfortable position?

Are realistic production demands set, providing sufficient variety of work to avoid monotony and fatigue?



In the event of an operator being trapped in a press, are there people with sufficient knowledge and equipment available to free the operator without causing further injury?



Is appropriate seating provided where possible to reduce fatigue?



Is adequate space provided for working at the press, handling materials, and for changing and maintaining dies?



Have procedures been developed for the safe manual handling of dies, where unavoidable? Suitable lifting points should be provided on the die to enable mechanical handling instead.


Instruction, training and supervision

Lack of training is a common cause of injury to power press operators. Many have been seriously injured within the first days, or even hours, of starting work on an unfamiliar power press.

No person should be permitted to operate a power press unless properly trained.

The WHS regulations (r. 39) provide that information, training and instruction must be suitable and adequate, with considerations made to:

  • the nature of the work carried out by the worker; and
  • the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time the information, training or instruction is provided; and
  • the control measures implemented.
Instruction, training and supervision
Check Yes No

Have all new operators been given induction training by a competent person?



Have manufacturers and suppliers provided adequate information on the safe operation and maintenance of the machinery?



Have all operators been provided with clear instructions on the safe operation of the power press from 'start up' to 'close down', including all possible sequences of control and operation?



Have operators been instructed in the hazards of the machines they operate?

Make sure that each operator understands and can demonstrate the safe operation of the power press.



Are all operators instructed:

  • About the types of fault likely to arise?
  • To immediately inform the person in charge if any faults or defects arise?
  • Of the dangers in attempting to correct any faults themselves?
  • In the importance of not 'riding' the foot pedal?

Is the operator's knowledge on the use of the power press and the precautions to be taken regularly assessed?



Are trainee operators supervised by somebody familiar with operating power presses?


Particularly for metal worker machines:

  • Does the operator know to NEVER reach under the blade to pull material through? If the machine bed has worn, report it to your supervisor.
  • Clear instructions must be given that guards or safety devices are not to be removed or altered in any way, and adjustable guards must be re-adjusted only by a competent person.


Keeping guards and press equipment well maintained is a vital safety measure. Most serious injuries with presses are due to malfunction of the press guards or other safety devices.

It is a requirement under the WHS regulations (r. 213) that persons with management or control of plant such as power presses at a workplace ensure that maintenance, inspection and, if necessary, testing is carried out by a competent person:

in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations if any; or
if there are no manufacturer’s recommendations, in accordance with the recommendations of a competent person; or

in relation to inspection, if the above are not reasonably practicable, annually.

Poor maintenance often results in a 'foul stroke' - when the tool descends without the machine being operated. Common problems include:

  • failure of the key extractor;
  • inadequate disengagement of the clutch;
  • gravity fall of the ram due to brake failure;
  • failure of the linkage (mounting) of the clutch control gear;
  • breakage of the clutch key; and
  • flywheel seizure.
Maintenance checklist
check Yes No

Is there a safety inspection and maintenance program drawn up for each power press in your workplace?



Are written records kept of inspections and maintenance carried out?



Do inspection and maintenance programs include instruction on complete routines for lubrication and maintenance?



Have safe work procedures been developed for maintenance work that ensure the press is locked out and tagged to prevent it being accidental switched on while someone is working on it?

Removable guards should be clearly labelled 'DANGER - Isolate power supply before removing guard'.



Particularly for metal worker machines:

Is the feed table maintained to keep it level with the blade? Wear on the feed table of shearing machines has led to serious injury in the past. If the feed table is worn, it prevents material being fed under the clamp or blade, and leads to the operator reaching under the blade.





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