Best Practices: Plasma Cutter Safety

Plasma cutting is easy and efficient, but as with any industrial process, it is not without its unique hazards.

Plasma Cutting: The Basics

Plasma cutter safety is based on understanding how the process works. Plasma cutters use an electrical channel of superheated, electrically ionized gas—otherwise known as plasma—that runs through a copper nozzle and through a workpiece, usually steel. This creates a superheated electric–gas stream that is remarkably effective at cutting thin and thick materials. 

The cutting arc begins at the electrode in the torch handle and is completed at the workpiece itself. This means the types of materials that can be cut with a plasma torch are limited to conductive metals such as:

  • Mild steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Titanium
  • Cast iron

The issue with some of these materials is the temperature necessary to make a clean cut may be too high for the machine to handle. While the metal can be cut, it is difficult to achieve a good quality edge.

Plasma is an effective way to cut thick and thin materials, whether you’re using a hand-held nozzle or a table cutting machine. Whatever method you use, the right safety guidelines must be in place to keep the operator safe, the workpiece safe, and the environment safe. This blog explores some of the major safety issues you will encounter when employing a plasma cutter.

Nothing is more important that the safety and health of your employees. Protect them with CK Supply.

Fire Safety

Plasma cutting produces high temperatures and sparks, particularly during initial contact with the metal. The process also heats up the metalwork, the nearby air, the cutting torch, and this can cause a fire hazard if proper fire safety precautions haven’t been taken. This means:

Protect your body from flying sparks – Operators must wear dry, undamaged, flame-resistant clothing and gloves. 

Move all flammable objects away from any welding area – Or, optionally, they must be covered with flame-proof covers. 

Torch tips and workpieces are superheated – Even metal that isn’t glowing or smoking can be a burn hazard.

Proper Grounding

Plasma cutting torches are designed with safety systems that shut off the machine if an operator loosens the shield cup or if the tip touches the electrode inside the nozzle. Plasma cutting requires high voltages to start and maintain the arc and touching live electrical parts can cause fatal shocks or severe burns. Poor connections and worn cable are also an electrocution risk and should be inspected daily. 

Don’t work in wet environments – Remember that electricity and moisture is a dangerous mix.

Use rubber gloves  – This decreases the risk of electrocution. 

Routinely inspect for effective grounds – Equipment must be properly grounded according to the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and to OSHA standards.

Proper Ventilation

Cutting produces fumes and gasses and must be done in well-ventilated spaces or while wearing air-supplied respirators that comply with ANSI standards. OSHA requirements state that the air surrounding an active welder be exchanged constantly when the welding is done in an active space and this exchanged air should be inert and safe.

Protect Eyesight

Arc rays are intense, visible and invisible light that can damage eyes. Face shields come in a number of different shades and the required shade is determined by the plasma cutter’s amperage. Other workers need to be protected from the flash and glare of plasma cutting with ANSI approved screens and barriers. Proper eye protection and protective equipment needs to be provided to all workers using plasma cutting equipment.

For Professional Industrial Supply Support, Call CK Supply

Plasma cutting is an important technique for many industrial applications and safety is a crucial element.  CK Supply has plasma cutters to buy or rent for any industrial purpose as well as any required safety equipment and clothing. For any plasma cutter service needs, we employ six factory-certified technicians to perform service and warranty repairs on all of the equipment we sell and rent. We also have two mobile repair vans to make on-site repairs. From plasma cutters to plasma cutting tables, CK is your one-stop shop for every project.

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