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Managing Safety Issues During Laser Cutting

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Laser cutters are highly powerful and resourceful equipment used to cut a wide range of materials like metal, wood, rubber, and plastics. But like other types of laser equipment, ensuring safety is key in the operation of laser cutters. Here's a glimpse at some of the safety concerns related to the use of laser cutters in materials processing applications, as well as suggestions on practical ways to address the concerns.

Light-induced hazards

The laser beam used to cut material is comprised of both visible and invisible (near-infrared) light radiation. As the laser light comes into contact with the material being worked on, high levels of dangerous blue light and ultraviolet radiation are emitted. This light radiation usually bounces off the surface of the workpiece and becomes scattered in the surrounding environment, and this can cause harm to the eyes and the skin. For that reason, make sure your workers wear protective eyewear and clothing when operating laser cutters.

Electrical hazards

As laser cutters require the power of electricity to run, electrical accidents can occur. A laser cutting machine generally requires a high volume of electrical discharge, making the risk of the operator and those working around the enclosure getting electrocuted in the event of an electrical mishap even more present. The best way to safeguard against electrical risks is by ensuring that the equipment is maintained and used according to manufacturer-specific instructions.

Usually, these instructions can be found in the operator's or user's manual provided by the manufacturer of the laser cutting system. Be sure to always read, understand, and comply with the recommended safety practices.

Toxic fumes and mists

As the laser light hits the workpieces, there can release impurities into the air. These impurities may be in the gaseous or particulate state, and they can, under some conditions, cause respiratory problems. The pollutant produced will depend on the kind of material being cut. Plastics such as polycarbonate (PC) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) generate respirable dust and benzene, which are major health risk concerns. To keep the laser-generated air contaminants (LG ACs) associated with cutting certain materials in check and minimise or eradicate worker exposures, the appropriate filtration and exhaust systems should be put in place.

Fire hazards

Extremely high amounts of heat can be created as the laser beam comes into contact with the workpiece being cut. To further add to this hazard, some materials are flammable and can catch fire inside the laser cutter. To help control the risk of fire when using laser cutters, make sure to keep the interior of the cutter and the area around the equipment clear of clutter or materials that can easily catch fire. In addition to that, make sure to never leave the system unattended when it is being used. And in the unfortunate situation that a fire incident arises, make sure a fire extinguisher or any other tool for fighting the fire is well within your reach.

For more information, get in touch with a commercial laser cutting service.