Press brakes are an unforgiving piece of machinery, and a frequent cause of workplace amputations. They are a mechanical or hydraulic machine for bending sheet metal and plate material, and a common machine in engineering workshops.

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Figure 1: press brake

[image] Press brake with labels and red arrows pointing to key components


  • Handling sheet metal
  • Contact or entanglement with die sets and moving beam, and workpiece and press frame
  • Noise
  • Slips, trips and falls > Leaking hydraulic oil
  • Contact or entanglement with moving parts (during maintenance, cleaning and repairs)
  • Faulty or altered machinery (maintenance & cleaning)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • Ear protection
  • Eye protection
  • Hand protection


Task – insert workpiece & make the bend


Handling sheet metal


  • Cuts
  • Strain injury


  • WEAR protective gloves.
  • Use mechanical aids to lift materials, when necessary.


Contact or entanglement with die sets and moving beam, and work piece and press frame


  • Deep cuts or amputation
  • Crush injuries


  • FIX guards to isolate the point of closure at the die sets and work piece and press frame.
  • USE an interlock front and rear guard, and fixed guards on the sides to pre
  • USE presence sensing devices to be with fixed and interlocked guards, or
  • USE a certified light curtain with floating light beams that aligns movement of the workpiece, or
  • USE a light beam/safety lastly to guard the front of the press brake.

LED-based solution is installed on the upper die of the press brake. If the system detects something, the machine will stop immediately or reduce power and speed.

Closed tool method reduces the press brake’s opening to 6 mm, limiting the risk of body parts entering the hazardous zone. USE WITH a presence sensing system.

Other (non-mechanical) hazards




  • Hearing damage or loss


  • REDUCE noise levels by isolating machines or enclosing within noise barriers.
  • ASSESS noise levels.
  • ARRANGE hearing screenings.
  • ALWAYS WEAR hearing protection.

A safe noise level over an eight hour day is 85dB(A). A press brake may exceed this noise intensity.


Slips trips and falls


  • Potential for hands to be trapped
  • Cuts
  • Bruising


  • KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
  • KEEP the area around press brakes clear of slip and trip hazards.
  • WEAR suitable footwear.
  • PROVIDE non-slip mats and suitable flooring.


Leaking hydraulic oil


  • Leaking oil may get into skin
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Breathing difficulties


  • APPLY a programme preventive maintenance (hydraulic hoses and hydraulic hose couplings).
  • Leaking oil, or bulging or abraded hose walls, MUST have faulty parts replaced.
  • NEVER use hands or fingers to detect leaks.
  • If oil seeps onto anyone’s skin, or someone working near hydraulic oil under pressure thinks they were bitten by an insect, they MUST be TAKEN to hospital, with full information presented to medical staff.
  • WEAR APPROPRIATE PPE (personal protective equipment).

May leak with high pressure jets of oil. Hydraulic oil under pressure will get into skin, even through leather gloves.

Task – maintenance, cleaning & repairs


Contact or entanglement with moving parts
Faulty or altered machinery


  • Bruising
  • Cuts or amputation
  • Fractures


  • LOCK-OUT all power supplies so the ram is prevented from falling and the controls are isolated, before maintenance, cleaning or repairs.
  • PROVIDE adequate support for parts that may fall and cause injury.
  • KEEP written safety procedures, and ARRANGE regular inspections by a competent person.
  • REMOVE or LOCK-OUT press brakes that fail inspection, and DO NOT USE until repaired or replaced.
  • DEVELOP a safe system of work, agreed by the employer and operations, and approved by a competent person.

Figure 2: unguarded brake press

[image] Unguarded brake press showing worker's gloved hands operating too close to the hazardous trapping space

An unguarded brake press means workers’ hands are too close to the hazardous trapping space.

Figure 3: unguarded brake press

[image] Unguarded brake press with a light curtain guard attached

A light curtain guard can prevent workers from accessing the brake press.

Download fact sheet

Press brakes (brake presses, brakes) (PDF 424 KB)