The industrial lubricants you are likely to encounter on the job fall into three general categories:

  • Petroleum-based oils.
  • Synthetic fluids (which don’t contain oils).
  • Water-based.

All oils are toxic, and you must protect against skin contact. Due to variations in additives, some oils are more toxic than others and require additional PPE over what you may be accustomed to using. Read the MSDS on an oil before you even obtain the oil. Even working near oil that someone else is using may require respiratory protection. The same caution applies to synthetic lubricants.

It may seem intuitive that water-based lubricants are non-toxic, but this is not the case. The water is the carrier; the actual lubricant can be very toxic. An additional caution for these lubricants is based on the fact that they dry as the water evaporates. The toxic part is left behind as dust that can be breathed in.