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Neodymium Magnets: Occupational Health and Safety

by Stanford Magnets

Neodymium magnets are unlike other magnets in property. These are the strongest permanent magnets and therefore pose greater risk when handled. Neodymium magnets which are larger than a few centimeters are strong enough to cause injuries to body parts when pinched between two magnets. Furthermore the greater force exerted by neodymium magnets can be hazardous to mechanical and electronic devices. Consequently the relevant safety precautions must be taken when coming into contact with neodymium magnets, with particular attention needed to the large neodymium magnets. This article will highlight some of these possible safety precautions.

Empty Pockets

Remove any metal items from your pockets, such as keys or pocket knives, before handling magnets with a pulling force of more than a few pounds. In addition leave your wallet in a safe place, as neodymium magnets can erase data from credit cards. Furthermore set aside your cell phone or MP3 player. Coins are safe, since they're not strongly affected by magnetic fields.

Wear Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment, such as lab goggles, is a must for anyone within a few feet of a strong neodymium magnet. These will protect your eyes in case a magnet shatters. Consider wearing gloves to protect your fingers from metal objects forcibly drawn to the magnet.

Keep electronic equipment at a safe distance

Neodymium magnets can erase data from computer hard drives and floppy disks; subsequently keep computer equipment several feet away. Any other magnetic recordings, such as cassette tapes, are also vulnerable. Medical devices, such as pacemakers or hearing aids, will be attracted to the strong magnetic field. As strong magnets may interfere with magnetic compasses, they may not be suitable for shipping or air freight. Stanford Magnets specialists suggest you consider magnetic shielding before you transport any magnet.

Check your working environment

When preparing a workbench or class demonstration using neodymium magnets, make sure you're aware of all metal objects in the area. Ideally, use a wooden or plastic bench with no steel hardware. Keep the magnets in a safe area until you need them. You should educate the people you are working with about the magnets, and thoroughly discuss the possible hazards, before allowing anyone else to handle the magnets.

Keep magnets out of reach of Children

Small neodymium magnets, such as those you find at the hardware store, pose fewer hazards; nevertheless keep them away from children. Children who have swallowed two or more of these magnets have had their internal organs pinched by them, causing pain and requiring surgery. Toys with these magnets are designed with safeguards to minimize hazards, but check the toy box for any magnet-related warnings.

In summary, before handling neodymium magnets one should empty their pockets; wear personal protective equipment; keep electronic equipment at a safe distance; check your working environment and lastly keep magnets out of reach of children.

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