A Plasma Cutter in Every Shop
The rapid advances in the design of plasma cutters has brought this powerful tool into the price range of workshops everywhere, and even into the studios and garages of some hobbyists. While it is great that so many people have access to plasma cutters, they are still extremely dangerous tools, and need to be used with caution and care. Below is a complete guide for ensuring that you take the proper precautions to protect yourself and your property when using a plasma cutter.
• Only allow trained adults to use the plasma cutter.
• Everyone in the work area where a plasma cutter is being used needs to be wearing the appropriate protective clothing and eyewear.
Appropriate Protective Clothing and Eyewear:
• The appropriate shade of eyewear depends on the arc strength of the plasma cutter and the proximity of the wearer. For people across the room, lower shades of eyewear are fine. The welder should be wearing a higher shade and have full facial protection. The welder must also account for using a CNC operation, where they will be further away from the arc and require more accurate vision. The best option is to use auto-darkening eyewear.
• Plasma cutters may throw off extremely hot sparks and debris. It is important that everyone wears non-flammable clothing and the welder wears a heat-resistant apron.
• Ultraviolet and infrared rays will damage any skin that is not completely covered.
• Do not wear clothing with any open collar, cuffs or pockets where sparks and debris can land and smolder.
• Do not carry any flammable or explosive materials (such as cigarette lighters) on your person while a plasma cutter is being used.
• Everyone should have protective handwear, and the cutter operator should be wearing specialty welding gloves at all times.
• The cutter operator should be wearing proper footwear to ensure that there is no chance of slipping or tripping when the plasma cutter is active.
Eliminate all potential fire hazards:
• The plasma cutting area should be far away from all other work areas, especially areas with combustible materials. Ideally plasma cutting areas should be shielded from the rest of the work area.
• Do not operate a plasma cutter unless you have a rated fire extinguisher within easy access of the cutting area.
Plasma Cutting Area Air Quality:
• Always use a respirator when operating a plasma cutter, as the fumes are toxic and potentially deadly.
• Ensure that the cutting area is well-ventilated.
• Use a grinder to remove the coating before cutting coated metals. These coatings can be extremely toxic when heated, and may not be properly filtered by a respirator.
• If you need to cut coated materials, be sure to use a full breathing apparatus and allow for extra ventilation in the cutting area.
Beware of Electrocution:
• Wear a pair of rubber gloves under your welding gloves to insulate against electrical charges.
• Be sure that the cutting area is free from water and moisture before operating the cutter.
• Stand on a rubber floor mat when operating the cutter.
• Have your plasma cutting unit installed, grounded and wired by a professional electrician.
More Than Just Common Sense
Plasma cutters are serious tools that use a highly advanced technique to create a jet of super-heated gas that can cut through metal up to 1 1/2 inches. You must be extremely cautious and respectful when operating a plasma cutter. This caution requires more than the usual common sense, so follow these plasma cutter safety rules precisely. Also read any additional rules that come with the manual, and the instructions that apply to your model specifically.
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