The market for welding equipment and profile cutters has broadened considerably in recent years as such machinery become more affordable, less cumbersome and thus available to the majority of the population. The hazardous methods used to accurately carve shapes from metal sheets are now adopted equally by unskilled hobbyists working in their own home and heavy industries of mass production. The widespread availability and unregulated use of profile cutting machinery has exposed more people to harm. Looking at plasma cutting in particular, it is easy to see the dangers of this trade and the necessity of certain safety precautions which all users must adhere to.
From arc-eye to smouldering debris on the skin, the dangers associated with plasma cutting are all extremely hazardous to anybody working in the vicinity. One serious risk is the fire hazard created by the arc of plasma which not only emits intense heat but also gives off sparks, which can land on nearby surfaces, clothing or skin. The arc also produces a bright glare which is damaging to the eyes. Molten metal and shards of freshly cut debris can be airborne and can burn or cut exposed skin. Then there are the fumes released by the metal during the process which can create an immediate choking hazard or more long term health problems. Any coating on the metal (ie. galvanised steel) must be removed beforehand as they produce truly toxic fumes. Finally, the extreme power output of a plasma cutter creates a high risk of electrocution. It certainly sounds like a risky business, but with the following precautions in place, profile cutting can be a safe and efficient way to manufacture cut metal.
Before starting any form of profile cutting, it is essential to inform any people in the vicinity that the equipment is being used so that each individual can take the necessary action to avoid harm. In industrial manufacturing, no unauthorised persons should be allowed to use a plasma cutter and it is essential that every operator undergoes appropriate training. Protective clothing and eye-wear is an absolute must for all machine operators. Goggles must provide unrestricted vision and movement while protecting the eyes from glare and debris. This means a suitably shaded, thick and unbreakable lens. Clothing must be full length to cover every inch of skin, fire resistant and without cuffs which could catch smouldering debris. It is essential to ventilate the room with fresh air or wear breathing apparatus where the fumes are likely to be intense. The risk of electrocution can be eliminated by being well grounded by wearing rubber soled boots and gloves as well as the standard welding gloves. There also must be no moisture or water around which could conduct electricity throughout the room. Finally, ensure that the plasma cutting machinery is placed as far from surrounding objects as possible to avoid sparks leaping to any material that could act as a fuel for fire.
In the workplace, the employer must ensure that these regulations are upheld to the highest standards to guarantee staff safety. At home, the individual is responsible for their health and ultimately their life, so such hazardous metalwork should not be undertaken lightly.
Sent to us by Dan Oztunc
This article was written by Emily Banham on behalf of Kerf Developments Ltd, the leading British supplier of profile cutting, oxy-fuel cutting, high definition plasma cutting and waterjet cutting equitment. More information on plasma cutters can be found on the following link – http://www.kerfdevelopments.com/plasmacutting.html