Paper Machine Hazards


paper manufacturing safety image

A paper manufacturing facility has many hazards that must be considered in order to create a safe, healthy work environment.

In this article, we’ll point out quite a few of the general types of hazards that are common in paper manufacturing. Many of the images we’ll show come from our Online Paper Machine General Safety online course. We’ll start with a quick sample from that course.

Did you know we sell paper manufacturing training solutions, including those for operations and safety?

Paper Machine Hazards

Any paper machine presents a set of hazards to the employees who work with and around it.

By if employees are aware of these hazards, are able to identify them (and control them when necessary), and know how to work safely in the presence, they can greatly decrease any measure of risk related to those safety hazards in paper manufacturing.

We’ll list some specific types of hazards below, and give specific types for working safely with them, but in addition it’s always a good idea to keep the following best safety practices in mind:

  • Never work on or around a paper machine without proper operational and safety training
  • Always follow approved job procedures for each job task
  • Always prioritize your own personal safety above any job task; don’t work if a task is unsafe
  • Always assume responsibility not only for your own safety, but for the safety of everyone in the work area–remember safety is a group activity
  • Always ensure paper machines receive proper preventive maintenance on a routine basis
  • Make sure all non-preventive maintenance needs are addressed and corrected as soon as they are identified
  • Always use good housekeeping to limit unnecessary hazards in the work area

Specific Paper Machine Hazards

Now let’s begin to look at some of the most common types of hazards at a paper machine.

Pinch Points

A pinch point is pretty much what it sounds like: A point where a person can get pinched between moving parts or between a stationary object and a moving part. But the pinch isn’t a cute little love tap. Pinch points can lead to dangerous, crushing injuries, leading to permanent disability, amputation, and even death.

Pinch points are places where a person or a body part can be caught or crushed by equipment movement.

Paper machines often have pinch points:

  • Between two different moving parts
  • Between a moving part and a stationary part
  • Around and beneath loads being transported–for example, under a large paper roll
  • Between mobile equipment, such as a forklift or clamp truck, and other machinery or objects

Paper Machine Pinch Point Image

If you’re working and see an unprotected pinch point that seems like it could cause an injury (or worse), report it to your supervisors so the situation can be addressed.

It’s common to place some form of machine guarding in place to keep people from getting caught up in the pinch point. In other cases, other engineering controls can be installed.


A nip is a specific type of pinch point created by rotating or reciprocating parts.

The hazard is that a finger or other body part can get pulled into the nip area by the rotating motion, leading to a severe crushing or cutting injury (or, again, even death). Nips can be especially hazardous because they’re often in areas where people feed materials into the paper-making process, make adjustments, or must add lubricants.

Nips are common at paper machines at adjacent rotating rolls, where a rotating roll and a moving rope or web come together, or around moving ropes and rope sheaves.

Nips are a type of pinch point usually associated with adjacent rotating rolls, a rotating roll and a moving rope or web (like a fabric or sheet of paper), or moving ropes and rope sheaves. Nips are hazardous to fingers and hands because they are often present where materials must be fed into the process or at adjustment and lubrication points.

Paper Machine Nip Image

We can further break down nips into two different types:

Ingoing Nips

An ingoing nip is located where two machine parts, at least one of which is rotating, meet. An ingoing nip can easily pull things between the two parts, including fingers, hands, hair, jewelry (please don’t wear jewelry at work, especially loose, dangling jewelry), and even your whole body. Ingoing nips can cause burns, abrasions, crushing injuries, amputations, and death.

Outgoing Nips

As you might have guessed, an outgoing nip is exactly the opposite of an ingoing nip. The hazard with an outgoing nip isn’t that a finger or similar body part will get caught up and crushed, but rather that something that enters the nip point (say, a small hand tool) will pass through the rotating parts and “shoot out” the outgoing side, perhaps striking a person or object after being ejected.

A key safety tips for avoiding projectile hazards from outgoing nips is to keep loose objects that could potentially enter the nip area away from the nip. So good housekeeping and putting things away after their used is one safety tip, and placing appropriate machine guarding around the nip when possible is another.

Sharp Surfaces

Sharp surfaces can cause cuts, scrapes, deep wounds, and even amputations. There are many sharp surfaces around a paper machine, ranging from box or utility knives employees may carry around to things like doctor blades and log saws.

Paper Machine Sharp Surface Image

Here are some things to keep in mind for safety from sharp surfaces:

  • Use caution when working with your hands. Injuries from sharp surfaces are most commonly suffered on the hands.
  • Always use a tool with a sharp surface, such as a knife, blade, or saw, only as it was designed to be used. Don’t be careless and don’t improvise.
  • Be careful when moving around the moving fabrics of a paper machine. You may not think of this initially, but the edge of that moving fabric is a sharp surface and it can cause serious cutting injuries.
  • Use can when handling doctor blades and worn creping blades. Wear all of the required personal protective equipment and follow all of the standard operating procedures.
  • Be cautious when performing tasks that are new, unfamiliar, and/or not routine for you. Keep an eye for sharp surfaces such as metal burrs, protruding bolts, and other sharp or rough edges.

To avoid cuts from sharp surfaces, wear proper PPE/gloves, use tools properly, avoid touching sharp surfaces when it’s not necessary, and report potentially hazardous sharp surfaces to supervisors so they can consider putting a guard in place or coming up with some other form of control.

Hot Surfaces

Paper machines and paper manufacturing facilities in general include a number of hot surfaces, which of course can cause dangerous burns. Surfaces may be hot because they are designed to either produce or transfer heat, but they may also be hot simply due to friction from moving moving parts.

Possible locations of hot surfaces on a paper machine include steam lines, steam traps, and pumps. You may also find hot surfaces near a paper machine; an example might be the motor of a forklift.

paper machine hot surface image

Ways to keep safe from hot surfaces include using caution before reaching in to an area or touching something, understanding the purpose of the different parts of the paper machine, and wearing appropriate PPE. Also, remember it may take a long time for a hot surface to cool down-don’t expect heat to disappear the moment the power is cut.

Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards

Slips, trips, and falls cause many of the injuries suffered in nearly all workplaces, including paper manufacturing plants. Injuries from slips, trips, and falls can range from nothing more than wounded pride, to cuts and bruises, broken bones, paralysis, and death. Even from a fall of only a few feet or from ground level.

Paper Machine Slip Trip and Fall Image

Here are some common slip, trip, and fall hazards:

  • Debris such as broke paper and scraps left on the floor
  • Wires and cords left on the floor or in walkways in an unsafe manner
  • Fluids left on the floor, such as water near the wet end of a paper machine
  • Missing, broken, or poorly designed guard rails
  • Missing, broken, or poorly designed steps
  • Improper use of ladders
  • Failure to use fall protection
  • Distraction and inattention to surroundings
  • Hurrying

We’ve included samples of our Slips, Trips, and Falls online course and/or our Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Inspection course for more information.

Online Slips, Trips, and Falls Course

Online Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Inspection Course

Also you might want to read up on OSHA’s recent changes to their Walking-Working Surfaces rule.

Particles Suspended in the Air

During the papermaking and converting processes, paper fiber dust is created, becomes airborne, and may eventually accumulate on machines or the ground.

This dust presents several hazards:

  • On a walkway, it can be slippery and may contribute to slips, trips, and falls
  • It can get lodged in an employee’s unprotected eye
  • It increases the risk of fire or explosion when airborne (check our “combustible dusts” training sample below)
  • A worker may inhale the dust, leading to respiratory problems

Paper Machine Airborne Particles Image

Some of the processes at a paper manufacturing facility have equipment designed to minimize dust creation or accumulation. Still, it’s always essential to follow good housekeeping practices. This includes using pressurized air hoses to perform ‘blowdowns’ in which dust is removed from equipment surfaces and to keep it from accumulating there. However, when performing a blowdown, always wear a respirator, because the blowdown can cause the the dust to become airborne and then become an inhalation hazard.

We’ve got more related information for you in our Respirator Basics online course and our Combustible Dust online course. Check the short samples below to learn more.

Online Respirator Course

Online Combustible Dust Course

Noise Hazards

Loud noises and noises that continue for extended periods of time can severely harm your hearing. Such noises are common in many manufacturing plants, and that includes paper manufacturing facilities.

Paper Machine Noise Hazard Image

To protect yourself from noise exposure (and resulting hearing loss), always wear hearing protection, like ear plugs and ear muffs, when working in loud work environments.

To learn more about the hazards of noise and the importance of hearing protection, get our Online Hearing Conservation Course. You can also watch a short sample of the course below.

Hazardous Chemicals

There are many hazardous chemicals used in papermaking facilities as part of the papermaking process. Quite a few of them are very hazardous.

Just a few are listed below:

  • Anhydrous Ammonia
  • Chlorine Dioxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Turpentine

Your employer should provide you with proper Hazard Communication (“HazCom”) training so you know the hazards of the chemicals at your workplace and how to work safely with them. Be certain you understand these hazards and precautions for working with these hazardous chemicals, including proper PPE, proper work procedures, and more.

Paper Machine Chemical Image

As a result of your HazCom training, you should always know how to understand the labels on containers of hazardous chemicals (see this article for more on HazCom labeling elements) and know how to find, read, and use safety data sheets, also known as SDSs (see this article for more on safety data sheets).

To learn more about working with hazardous chemicals, including SDSs and more, you may want to check out our HazCom-GHS Online course (sample below).

In addition, you should always follow all safe work procedures, wear proper PPE appropriate to the task you’re performing, and know the location of all emergency showers and eyewash stations in your work area.

The following courses have additional information for you about chemical hazards at a papermaking facility:

Confined Space Hazards

Confined spaces present many hazards, including some that can lead to death. But perhaps we should begin by explaining what a confined spaced is.

OSHA says a confined space is a space that:

  • Is large enough for a person to get into it and work
  • Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit
  • Is not designed for an employee to be in it continuously

In paper manufacturing facilities, you can find confined spaces inside pulp storage chests, dryer cans, stock and water chests and tanks, pulper vats, and elsewhere.

Paper Machine Confined Space

One of the biggest hazards inside a confined space is the potential for hazardous gases to collect inside of them. These gases can be toxic, combustible, or present other hazards to a worker in a confined space.

Another hazard is that the confined space may have oxygen-deficient air, which could lead to a worker falling unconscious or dying.

Before working in a confined space, a worker should receive confined space training. The process should be governed by a confined space permit process as well.

Due to the high risks and dangers associated with confined spaces, all persons must be trained prior to participating in a confined space entry. An official checklist and procedure from the facility is required to show that the work in a confined space is safe and authorized. This form is called the Confined Space Work Permit.

The samples from our two Confined Space courses below offer more information about confined spaces and the confined space permit process.

Online Confined Space Training Course

Online Confined Space Permit Training Course

Water and Air Hoses

Hoses for carrying air and water are commonly located all throughout a paper machine facility. These hoses present a set of hazards.

For one thing, a hose can get caught up in the rotating parts of a machine nip. If a hose gets caught up in a rotating nip, and then also wrapped around a person, the person may ultimately be dragged into the rotating nip as well, leading to severe injury or death.

Following safe work procedures when using a hose can help prevent this: when using a hose, always position the hose so it’s not behind you and not wrapped (even loosely) around any part of your body.

Pressurized hoses also present a different hazard. If a high-pressure hose is turned on quickly, it may be jerked out of the worker’s grasp or cause the worker to lose balance and fall. As a result, it’s a best practice to always open supply valves slowly.

Another type of hazard comes from pressurized hoses. If a high pressure hose is turned on too quickly, the hose can be pulled from the worker’s grasp or cause the worker to lose his/her balance. This may also cause the worker to lose control of the hose. In a case like this, the high pressure will cause the hose to whip around, possibly striking workers. These type of hose-whipping accidents can cause very severe injuries.

To prevent this sudden jerking of the hose, open supply valves slowly.

Finally, it’s always good to practice good housekeeping to prevent slips, trips, and falls or entanglements. Put hoses away in proper, coiled fashion when you’re not using them.

Paper Machine Hoses Image

Fire Hazards

Fires are a serious safety issue anywhere–at home or at work. And paper manufacturing facilities have some characteristics (namely: paper and other word products!) that make fires a serious hazard.

In particular, the broke, litter, and dust at a paper manufacturing facility, all most commonly found at the dry end of the paper machine and near rewinders in the converting area, are specific fire hazards (as are the equipment that cause heat that could cause these materials to ignite).

A fire can be a great safety issue anywhere. The most common fire hazards in a paper facility come from broke, litter, and dust being ignited. These materials are commonly found at the dry end of the paper machine and around the rewinders in the converting area.

Paper Machines Fires Hazards

Preventing fires begins with a good solid understanding of the fire tetrahedron. The fire tetrahedron is a list of the elements that must be present for a fire to occur. These include:

  • Fuel, such as wood, paper, or flammable chemicals
  • Heat, which might be created by any number of industrial processes
  • Oxygen, which is generally all around us in the air
  • An uninhibited chain reaction that allows the fire to continue

A few common ways that fires originate in paper manufacturing plants include:

  • Static electricity. This can cause sparks between moving webs and machinery.
  • The build-up of broke or dust on hot steam or condensate lines.
  • Broke contacting hot equipment or machine parts, including the motors of forklifts

Dust that becomes airborne is a fire and explosion hazard. As a result, all dust should be regularly cleaned up and removed. In general, good housekeeping and keeping your equipment clean and well-maintained are the best things you can do to prevent fires at work. .

See our Fire Safety and Fire Extinguisher Safety online courses for more information (we’ve provided short sample videos below).

Online Fire Safety Course

Online Fire Extinguisher Safety Training Course

Controlling Hazards: The Hierarchy of Controls

Although we’ve given some specific tips for controlling workplace hazards in a paper manufacturing facility above, it’s always good to know about the hierarchy of controls.

The hierarchy of controls provides a step-by-step method for considering and using different types of controls to eliminate or reduce a hazard. For more information, read our detailed article on the hierarchy of controls.

And as you’ve learned above, specific controls that are often helpful include good housekeeping, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), routine maintenance, and following standard operating procedures for job tasks.

Conclusion: Common Hazards in a Paper Manufacturing Plant

We hope this article has been helpful in pointing out common types of hazards in a paper mill and giving you tips on how to reduce the risks. Please let us know if there are other common hazards you think we should have included.

You may also want to learn more about our online paper manufacturing courses and/or our online safety training courses. You can get them in any of several formats, including online streaming video, USB, video discs, and SCORM and AICC (which allow you to import them into a learning management system (LMS).

And for even more on paper manufacturing safety, OSHA’s always a good resource.

Want to Know More?

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