6 Common Industrial Fan Safety Hazards

Here at Moffitt, we often receive questions about staying safe around industrial fans. Many are concerned with protecting workers from contacting rotating blades on our industrial fan equipment and are interested in purchasing guards or other protection. This is of course a very real danger, but there are also other industrial fan safety hazards associated with working with industrial fan equipment.

Be Aware of the Hazards with Industrial Fans

Industrial Fan Safety Hazards

As safety is always our priority, we thought we’d take a minute to focus on the major hazards associated with an industrial fan. There are a lot of moving parts that go into the operation of an industrial fan, and this could cause a lot of concerns and safety issues for those who will need to work with them. Ensuring that your industrial fan maintenance is up to date and in good working order lowers the chances of it causing injury to those who need to be around them.

Industrial Fan safety Hazards

For over 50 years Moffitt has sold, manufactured, and installed multiple types of fans. We sell everything from small axial units to very large, hooded supply/exhaust units to move large volumes of air.

Every industrial fan has at least two things in common:

  1. A rotating driven component (Fan)
  2. A rotating driver component (Motor)

Often there will also be belts and sheaves or pulleys to connect the two and sometimes the fan will be direct-driven and no belts are required. Despite these variations, those are the two things that every industrial fan has in common. Additionally, every fan has the same specific industrial fan safety hazards. They are as follows:

Contact with rotating blades

An operating fan poses a significant risk of injury by contact with the propeller and must be treated with vigilance and care. Indirect contact can also occur with blowing dust/dirt. This is particularly hazardous to eyes and respiratory system.

Lockout and tag out the unit when working on industrial fan equipment. Test it by operating the starter to ensure the unit is de-energized. Do this before removing any guards.

Wind blowing through the industrial fan housing can cause the propeller to rotate (windmill), sometimes at high speed. A large propeller has significant mass and can knock you off your feet. Make sure you maintain safe proximity from the fan wheel and always be sure to secure the propeller before entering the fan housing area.

Pinch points in belts/sheaves

Even if the fan wheel is rotating slowly, without power, a significant mechanical advantage is developed at the sheaves. This is especially true with large fans. A finger caught between the sheave and the rotating belt could result in severe injury or digit loss.

Fan Blade/ Component failure during initial start up

Fan failure on startup is generally a rare event, but sometimes it happens. Fans travel long distances on flatbed trailers. They encounter vibration, bumps, and weather. It is common to find loose components on arrival at the job site so a thorough inspection of each fan on arrival is important.

Be sure to.

  • Look for loose/missing components and damage
  • Correct all discrepancies before starting the fan.
  • Listen for any unusual noises, squeaks, squeals, hum, or rubbing.

Make sure the blade does not contact any part of the spinning area. This is cause for immediate unit rejection. Correct this problem immediately as running in this condition will result in very quick blade failure.

Look for blade wobble or tracking problems. “Bump” each fan before committing to a full power run. “Bump” means applying a short burst of power to start the fan wheel rotating, then immediately de-energizing the unit.

Material/debris entering fan

Certain fans are more susceptible to the dangers of an object entering the propeller path, but it can happen to any type of fan. Working over an operating upblast roof exhauster with hand tools is a recipe for disaster. Fan wheels will fail this when material contacts blades and unfortunately this type of material is everywhere. Remove dunnage before start-up to avoid problems later.

Spinning fans are immensely powerful. A full brim phenolic hard can be reduced to fibers if inadvertently left in the fan housing and the unit is energized.

Contact with hot motor surface

Don’t forget that even when de-energized and locked out, fan motors have significant mass. They will retain heat for extended periods. 220-degree F and higher temperatures are possible. Let the unit have a cool down period before starting work.


Guards keep workers from directly experiencing the items above. However, even a guard can become an industrial fan safety hazard.

Guards should be in decent shape and properly secured to the fan housing. Use the correct number of sheet metal screws. If unsecured, guards can fall into the fan.

Be careful when removing guards. They tend to be large and not very rigid. This can result in loss of balance when working on elevated surfaces and ladders.

Guards often contain sharp edges from expanded metal and other screen materials. Wear gloves when handling all screens.

6 Common Industrial Fan Safety Hazards

In conclusion, knowing the rules of fan guards is an important first step to ensuring workplace safety. A site inspection is a great first step to ensuring that your fans are safe and in proper working order