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June 26, 2023 4 min read

An Overview of Plasma Cutter Safety Precautions

Imagine wielding a device that can slice through metal like a hot knife through butter. That's essentially a plasma cutter for you. As thrilling as it sounds, it comes with certain risks. Just as you wouldn't juggle knives without knowing how, it's vital to understand the safety precautions while using plasma cutters.

Understanding how a plasma cutter works

Understanding Plasma Cutters

Just like understanding a magic trick makes it less dangerous, knowing how a plasma cutter works can minimize the risks associated with it. Plasma cutters work by sending an electric arc through a gas that is passing through a constricted opening. This elevates the temperature of the gas to the point that it enters a 4th state of matter – plasma. This plasma when it meets a conductive material will create a molten pool. The pressure of the plasma gas will then blow this pool away. 


Proper Training and Maintenance
Before jumping onto a bike, you need to learn how to balance and operate it, right? It's the same with plasma cutters. Proper training is crucial for safe operation. Regular maintenancealso plays a part in preventing accidents and ensuring the longevity of the equipment. Saying that plasma Cutters are pretty easy to use nowadays and as long as you follow the safety requirements you should be pretty safe.


wear protective gasses when plasma cutting

The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment When Plasma Cutting
No knight would go to battle without their armour, right? Similarly, always wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, gloves, and flame-resistant clothing when operating plasma cutters. These will protect you from potential sparks, ultraviolet radiation, and other hazards. 

The plasma arc is very bright and this can damage your eyes so you need to wear some eyewear protection at a minimum of shade 4. safety glasses,

Working in a Safe Environment
You wouldn't cook a feast in a cluttered kitchen, would you? A clean, clutter-free workspace is equally essential when operating a plasma cutter. This reduces the risk of fire and other accidents. remove flammable objects away from the cutting area and especially to the rear of the panel to be cut.

 

fire extinguisher

Fire Safety Precautions
Working with plasma cutters is a bit like playing with fire. And just as you'd keep a fire extinguisher handy when dealing with fire, it's wise to keep one nearby when working with a plasma cutter. 

Sparks can cause fires so make sure the area to the back of what you are cutting is clear from possible flammable objects. You will be surprised how far they do travel. You could use an ant-spatter blanket over objectsto protect them from these sparks.

 

Electrical Safety Measures
Plasma cutters produce high voltages at the electrodes inside the plasma torch head. Always turn the plasma off when changing your consumables  just to be on the safe side, in case you activate the trigger whilst doing so. All plasma torches have safety pins connected to the plasma nozzle that breaks the trigger circuit should you remove it. Never assume though and better to be safe than sorry. Turn off when changing consumables.

 

metal particle in the air when plasma cutting

Health Precautions-Smoke and Fumes
Did you know that plasma cutting can produce fumes and gases that are harmful to health? Hence, it's crucial to wear respiratory protection when using these tools.

wear proper PPE when plasma cutting
Proper Ventilation
You wouldn't want to inhale the smoke from a barbecue grill, right? Similarly, ensure adequate ventilation when using a plasma cutter to avoid inhaling potentially harmful fumes. The smoke you can see is actually metal particles floating in the air, meaning they are very easily breathed into the lungs. A build up of these particulates in the lungs can lead to metal particle poisoning and is suspected to cause Parkinsons desease.

Welding Curtains used when plasma cutting

Precautions for Bystanders
Just as you wouldn't let your kids play near a construction site, ensure that any bystanders maintain a safe distance when you're operating a plasma cutter. if its in a work environment use welding curtains to partition off the surrounding area.

hyperthem plasma torch

Handling the Plasma Cutter and Torch Properly
Operating a plasma cutter isn't like wielding a lightsaber from Star Wars. It requires careful handling. Make sure the torch is off when not in use and always point it away from people and flammable materials.


The Role of Plasma Cutter Manufacturers in Safety
Manufacturers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of plasma cutters, older machines used to use HF (high frequency to generate the arc and these were very dangerous but have since moved onto contact start which is a lot safer. As stated before the torch heads have protection pins to drop out the trigger circuit when the nozzle is removed. j

In conclusion, safety should be your priority when using plasma cutters. Just like driving, it's not inherently dangerous if you follow the rules and take the necessary precautions and wear safety equipment. 

FAQs
Q1: Can anyone use a plasma cutter?
Yes! Plasma cutters are generally ery simple and easy to use as long as you are aware of the safety requirments.

Q2: What should I wear when using a plasma cutter?
Think of it as going to a medieval battle – you need protective gear. This includes safety glasses, gloves, and flame-resistant clothing.

Q3: Is it safe to use a plasma cutter at home?
As long as you follow the necessary precautions and ensure a safe, clutter-free workspace, it can be safe. However, always be mindful of the risks involved.

Q4: Can the sparks from a plasma cutter cause a fire?**
Yes, just as a spark can ignite a forest fire, sparks from a plasma cutter can potentially start fires. Always have fire safety equipment at hand.

Q5.: Are the fumes from plasma cutting harmful?
Indeed, they can be. The metal particles from a plasma are are finer than flour and very light. They can stay airborne for a good while, making it easy for you to breath in large amounts if you dont wear proper protection. Hence, proper ventilation and respiratory protection are essential when using plasma cutters.

 

Plasma torch Picture courtesy of Hypertherm.

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