Safety for Composite Processing 115

This class teaches operators how to protect themselves from illness and injury when working with composites. You will also learn how to store and discard hazardous materials. Finally, you will learn about the agencies that develop and regulate workplace safety standards.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 16

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Objectives
  • Safety for Composite Processing
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Hand and Power Tool Safety
  • Power Saw Safety
  • Spray-up Molding Safety
  • Filament Winding Safety
  • Compression Molding Safety
  • Chemical Hazards
  • Fiberglass Health Hazards
  • Resin Health Hazards
  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids
  • Resin Storage and Disposal
  • Regulatory Agencies
  • Summary
  • Describe the safety issues involved in working with composites.
  • Identify the personal protective equipment used for processing and repairing composites.
  • Describe lockout/tagout safeguards.
  • Describe safety measures for using hand and power tools.
  • Describe safety measures for using power saws.
  • Describe safety measures for spray-up molding.
  • Describe safety measures for filament winding.
  • Describe safety measures for compression molding.
  • Describe the chemical hazards of working with composites.
  • Describe the hazards of working with fiberglass reinforcement.
  • Describe the hazards of working with composite resins.
  • Distinguish between flammable and combustible liquids.
  • Describe best practices for resin storage and disposal.
  • Identify the U.S. regulatory agencies that oversee and enforce workplace safety.
Vocabulary Term


An organic compound used as a hardening agent in epoxy resin. Amines are derived from ammonia.


An high-performance composite material made from nylon. Aramid fiber reinforcements are strong and flexible.

arm covering

Fabric or sleeves that fit over the operator's arms to protect them from chemical hazards.

bumper switches

Physical switches that detect obstacles when coming into contact with them. A bumper switch placed on the carriage of a filament winding machine will cause the machine to stop if the carriage comes into contact with an object or a worker.


A non-porous synthetic rubber that is resistant to certain chemicals. When handling composite resins, wear protective gloves made from butyl or another material that is resistant to chemicals.


A non-metallic chemical element used in advanced composite reinforcements and matrices. Carbon is very strong and has high resistance to heat.


A machine part that moves the payoff back and forth along the mandrel of a filament winding machine. Safety precautions should be taken to prevent the carriage from striking an operator or a nearby object.

catalyzed resin

A resin that has been mixed with a catalyst to promote a chemical reaction, such as hardening. Catalyzed resins must be used immediately.

chemical hazard

The health and safety risk to an operator when coming into contact with harmful substances. Harmful chemicals may occur in the form of liquids, vapors, fibers, or dust.

chopper gun

A pneumatic device for spray-up molding that chops continuous strands of fiber into small pieces before they are sprayed on to a surface.

circular saw

A power saw that uses a round, metal disk with cutting teeth at the edges. Circular saws are preferred over jigsaws for repairing composites.


A workholding device that grips and holds a workpiece in place.

combustible liquid

A liquid that will ignite if it reaches its flash point and is provided with an ignition source. Combustible liquids have a flash point above 100° Fahrenheit (38°C).


A material that is made by combining a binding resin with small filaments of solid material. Composites have the strength of metal, the light weight of plastic, and the rigidity of ceramics.

compression molding

A molding process during which resin is placed between two dies of a mold and subjected to pressure and heat to create a finished part. Operators must take safety precautions to prevent crushing injuries when operating the compression press.

daylight opening

The distance between the opened molds in a compression molding press.

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA. The governmental agency responsible for administrating laws to control and reduce pollution of air, water, and land systems.

EPA standard

The established norm or requirement set by the Environmental Protection Agency.


The most commonly used polymer for advanced thermoset resins. Epoxies are very tough and heat resistant.


A switch that brings a machine to a safe, rapid stop. Also called an emergency stop.


Reinforcement material made from extremely fine strands of glass. Fiberglass is the most commonly used reinforcement material in composites.

filament winding

A process during which strands of fiber are soaked in resin and wound around a core in the desired pattern. Operators must keep their hands and clothing away from pinch points on the filament winding machine.

fire flashback

The explosion of a container caused by a fire that occurs outside the container and then enters the container through the flammable or combustible liquid's vapors.

flammable liquid

A liquid that will ignite if it reaches its flash point and is provided with an ignition source. Flammable liquids have a flash point below 100° Fahrenheit (38°C) and can typically ignite at room temperature.

flash point

The lowest temperature at which a liquid produces enough vapor to form an ignitable mixture. Liquids with low flash points pose the greatest danger.


An organic compound that may be found in phenolic resins. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and may be fatal if ingested.


A transparent material made from silica and other ingredients. Tiny glass fibers are used to make fiberglass reinforcements for composites.

hand tool

A tool, such as a hammer or screwdriver, that is powered by an operator. Hand tools must be kept clean and sharp in order to avoid injury.

hearing protection

Personal protective equipment, such as earplugs, that protects the hearing of the operator. Hearing protection should be worn while operating power tools.

ignition source

Any process or event capable of causing a fire or explosion. Open flames, sparks, static electricity, and hot surfaces are all possible ignition sources.

interlocked guard

A barrier with a tripping mechanism that causes the machine to stop when the guard is moved.


A power saw with a reciprocating blade. Jigsaws are used for cutting curves instead of straight lines.


Two or more layers of fibrous material that have been bonded together for strength. One of the most common reasons for repairing a composite part is damage to the laminate.


A polymer that is used to make rubber. When handling composite resins, individuals must wear protective gloves made from latex or another material that is resistant to chemicals.

light curtain

A field of light that stops a machine when the light is blocked by an object.

lockout device

A safety device that holds a switch in an off position, or covers the switch so that it is inaccessible. Only the person who has locked out a device is authorized to unlock it.


The common term for OSHA's Control of Hazardous Energy Standard. Lockout/tagout practices protect employees by preventing accidental machine startup through proper locking and labeling of machines that are undergoing maintenance.

Material Safety Data Sheet

Mandatory information that must accompany almost every chemical in the workplace, including flammable and combustible liquids. An MSDS includes details such as the risks, precautions, and first aid procedures associated with the chemical.


The material that binds together the reinforcing fibers of a composite. The matrix is usually a viscous material that hardens to give shape to the composite part and to protect the fibers from damage.


MDA. A toxic chemical found in some of the hardening agents used with epoxy resins. MDA causes irreversible liver damage if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The U.S. agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the US Department of Health and Human Services.


A component, usually made of metal, with a threaded hole that mates with a bolt.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

A government agency that sets the standards for working conditions in the United States and ensures that employees work in safe and healthy environments. Abbreviated as OSHA.

personal protective equipment

Any clothing or device worn to minimize exposure to hazards and prevent injury. Personal protective equipment for composite processing may include safety glasses, safety gloves, and a breathing mask.


An aromatic compound used to create phenolic resins for composites. Phenol has a strong odor and can be toxic in high concentrations.

phenolic resin

A thermoset polymer derived from phenol. Operators who are exposed to phenolic resin may suffer severe health hazards.


A type of sensor that detects light. Photosensors are used in presence-sensing safety devicese.

pinch point

Any place where two components meet that can cause an injury if the operator comes into contact with the area.

point of operation

The area where the tool comes into contact with the workpiece. Operators must never place anything in the path of the point of operation.


The most widely used thermoset polymer in the composite industry. Polyester contains styrene, which is a possible carcinogen.

power drill

An electric-powered hand tool used for drilling holes in various materials. Always consult the owners manual before using a power drill.

power sander

An electric-powered hand tool used for smoothing the surface of an object. Never force a power sander by applying too much pressure.

power saw

A power tool for cutting through solid objects. When using a power saw, clamp workpieces in a clamp or a vise so that both hands are free to hold the saw.

power tool

A tool that is powered by an external source, such as electricity or compressed air. Power tools must receive regular maintenance and be properly handled to avoid injury.

pre-formed earplugs

Professionally fitted ear protection made of silicone or rubber.

protective gloves

Gloves made from a variety of materials to protect the hands from hazards such as chemicals, heat, or abrasion.


The part of the composite that provides strength, stiffness, and the ability to carry a load. In manufacturing, fibers are the most commonly used reinforcement.

safeguarding system

Any device, barrier, or process that protects a worker from being injured by a machine. The two basic types of safeguarding systems are safety devices and safety guards.

safety disposal can

A container used for storing and disposing up to five gallons of industrial waste, including flammable and combustible liquids.

safety glasses

Protective eyeglasses with metal or plastic frames and impact-resistant lenses that may or may not offer vision correction. Many safety spectacles also have protective side shields.

safety goggles

Tight-fitting eye protection that completely cover the eyes, the sockets, and the surrounding facial area. Goggles offer protection from impact, dust, chips, and splashes.

safety latch

A device on a spray gun that prevents the operator from accidentally activating the gun.

safety vent

A vent or opening that prevents the contents in a container from reaching temperatures that would cause them to explode. Most types of OSHA-approved containers for flammable and combustible liquids contain a safety vent.


A type of hand tool that tightens and loosens screws. Screwdrivers contain a grip on one end and a blade on the other end that corresponds to the head on the screw.


A device that detects the presence or absence of an object, or certain properties of that object, and provides feedback. Sensors often are used in safety devices, such as light curtains.

sensor switch

A safety device used on power tools. Sensor switches can have different designs, but the most common type allows the tool to operate while pressure is applied and does not allow the tool to operate when pressure is released.

single-use earplugs

Single-use, disposable, self-forming plugs made of waxed cotton, foam, or silicone rubber.

spray-up molding

A manual molding process during which an operator uses a spray machine to simultaneously apply resin and chopped fiberglass strands to a mold. Spray-up molding poses a breathing hazard to the operator.

storage cabinet

An enclosed container with shelving used to store various industrial materials. An OSHA-approved storage cabinet for flammable and combustible liquids must be made of metal or wood, must include certain safety features, and must be raised two inches (5.08 cm.) from the ground and be properly labeled.


A colorless and toxic hydrocarbon used in plastics. Many of the resins used in composites emit styrene vapors that may be harmful to the operator if inhaled.

tagout device

A prominent warning tag that alerts workers to the fact that machinery or equipment is undergoing service and should remain shut off. Tagout devices are always used with lockout devices.


A polymer composed of molecules that are not cross-linked, or are cross-linked to a weaker degree. As a group, thermoplastic resins pose fewer health risks than thermoset resins.


A polymer that cannot be re-melted or reformed once it has cured. Thermoset resins can pose significant health hazards to the operator.

three-point lock

A locking mechanism installed on storage cabinet doors that secures doors at the top, bottom, and sides. The three-point lock is required by OSHA to secure cabinets containing flammable and combustible liquids.

two-hand control device

A control that protects a worker's hands by requiring the worker to have both hands on the control device before the machine starts.


The gaseous form of a substance that is a liquid or solid at normal temperatures. The vapors of flammable and combustible liquids can ignite if fire or sparks are present.


A thermoset polymer that shares common qualities with both polyester and epoxy. Vinylester contains styrene, which is a possible carcinogen.

waste drum

A container used for storing and disposing of large amounts of flammable and combustible liquid waste.


Hand tools that tighten and turn bolts and nuts. Wrenches contain fixed or moving jaws or a round attachment that grips the nuts or bolts.