Emery Cloth Safety Alert

March 20, 2023
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Following investigations into a series of accidents related to the use of emery cloth while using rotating machinery HSE Northern Ireland (HSENI) have issued a safety alert.

Emery cloth is a form of abrasive which is used primarily to polish and smooth metal components. Accidents often occur while using emery cloth with rotating machinery such as metalworking lathes where there is a risk the cloth being entangled and dragging the operator into the machinery causing serious injuries.

The safety alert reiterates existing safety advice about the use of emery cloths, and gloves, with rotating machinery. The alert highlights some acceptable methods for the external and internal use of emery cloth alongside links to videos from the HSE’s YouTube channel demonstrating these methods. HSENI also emphasise that emery cloth should never be used directly by hand on rotating metal machinery, nor should gloves be worn as these present an additional risk of entanglement.

Key controls that employers and machine operators should follow include:


  • Provide the machine operator with appropriate training on how to use emery cloth safely
  • Provide operators and supervisors with information, instruction, and training about the dangers of using emery cloth and instruction in how to use it correctly and safely
  • Supervisors to take appropriate action if unsafe practices are observed
  • Eliminate the use of gloves with rotating machinery


  • Wear tight fitting overalls (preferably with elasticated cuffs)
  • Avoid wearing loose, baggy clothing and ties as these may become entangled
  • Tie back long hair or wear a hair net as hair can also become entangled
  • Remove rings, jewellery etc.

If you have any questions or would like support with managing issues, please speak to your usual contact or get in touch using the form below.