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Magnets & Personal Safety
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Last Updated
2nd of May, 2014

Magnets can present a grave risk of bodily harm in many ways, as outlined below. The risks can vary with each type and size of magnet.

Crushing Risk

Many magnets, particularly Rare Earth magnets, can have pulling strengths measuring hundreds of kilograms of force. Uncontrolled magnets can attract to eachother, or metal, from surprising distances and can slam together with incredible velocity. We have had customers lose fingers from improperly handling Rare Earth magnets.

Course of action:

  • Always move other magnets / metal tools / ferrous (“iron”) objects away from working area, to create a safety zone (minimum 1 metre away in all directions).

  • If your hands or other body part is trapped between large magnets, remain calm and do not move. Do NOT attempt to free your trapped body part yourself, as this can exacerbate the positioning of the magnets and increase the pulling force. Instead, shout for help from your colleagues. Use wood or plastic items (tape items together if necessary) to support the magnet, and- where possible- wedge / build / “pack out” the gaps between the magnets.

  • You need to increase the distance between the magnets, which will in turn diminish their pulling strength. The aim here is to detach the magnets from eachother, or- at the very least- allow enough space for the trapped body part to be slid free.

Splinter Risk (Risk to Eyes & Skin)

Magnets that crack or chip can create incredibly sharp fragments that will easily penetrate the skin and eyes. Often fragments which break away will be propelled away at high velocity, and can easily enter the eyes or skin.

Course of action:

  • Always wear gloves and safety glasses when handling magnets. If cuts or abrasions occur, flush area with running water and ensure no fragments remain.

  • If fragments cannot be removed, consult your doctor or hospital (depending on severity).

 Ignition Risk

Grinding and machining magnets produces a dust which, in certain circumstances, can be flammable. Magnets cannot be cut or ground “after-market”; their size can only be determined during the production process.

Course of action:

  • Do not grind or attempt to machine cut magnets.

  • If sparks or flames arise, extinguish immediately by dousing or submerging in water.

Swallowing / Inhalation Risk

The risk of swallowing magnets in adults is minimal, but not unheard of. The risk relates to teenagers and children who may use smaller magnets inappropriately, such as makeshift imitation tongue and nose studs. From here it is easy to swallow or inhale the components accidentally. Once swallowed, magnets can end up attracting to each other from different areas of the body, pulling together through the walls of the stomach and intestines, causing (often fatal) internal haemorrhaging. The chemical makeup of Rare Earth magnets are also poisonous, and must not be ingested for this reason also.

Course of action:

  • If magnets are swallowed, call 000 and seek emergency medical assistance immediately.

Skin Irritation

Magnets are triple coated in Nickel and Copper to combat oxidation. Magnets should not be handled for long periods of time, nor worn against the skin, as this can cause a Nickel rash in some people.

 Course of action:

  • Wear rubber gloves if prolonged handling is expected by hand. If nickel rash appears, discontinue handling. If severe rash occurs, consult your doctor.

Risk to Pacemakers & Implants

Generally speaking, modern pacemakers, neuro-stimulators and implants are not made primarily from “ferrous” (iron) materials. That being said, some devices, can be influenced and disrupted by magnets.

Course of action:

  • Regardless of the make and material of implant, patients with these devices should err on the side of caution and not handle magnets.

  • If accidental disruption occurs, call 000 and seek emergency medical assistance immediately. First Aid may be necessary (follow DRSABCD).

 


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