Plasma cutting

Plasma Cutting Safety Tips: Must-Have Safety Measures and Precautions

Plasma cutting is a straightforward process that cuts through electronically conductive materials with an accelerated stream of hot plasma. This technique is used with a plasma torch, which is commonly used with various metals such as aluminum, brass, steel, stainless steel, and copper. Plasma arc cutting is one of the easiest welding methods, though it must be performed carefully and safely to minimize the risk of injury.

One of the essential features of plasma cutters is the voltage level, which is ten times higher than a standard inverter welding machine. It’s also much higher in voltage than other welding methods, such as TIG welding and MIG welding.

Since the high voltage can cause serious injury, it’s crucial to take safety precautions when working with plasma cutting equipment, and it’s essential to set up and operate this equipment with the proper personal protective gear and with safety measures in place.

While plasma cutting technology is not without safety risks, this technique continues to improve and provide several significant benefits:

  • Plasma cutters are fast and efficient, often reducing production time
  • It’s a cost-effective method that’s quick and less expensive than other welding options
  • Plasma cutting can be used to cut through many types of metals, including mild steel, thin metals, and thicker materials, with the same speed, quality, and accuracy
  • Plasma cutting is ideal for underwater use, where the heat and noise levels are lower, making workers safer and more effective


Plasma Cutting Is Dangerous: What You Should Know


Why is the plasma arc cutting process dangerous, and what can you do to protect yourself? Understanding the basics of this welding technique and ensuring all safety precautions are taken before you begin is vital. Plasma cutters work by using compressed gases or air to create an electric arc produced through a small, constricted opening in the torch's nozzle.

When the compressed plasma gas is ionized during this process, it produces a high heat that becomes conductive, which causes matter to become plasma and creates an extreme voltage level, typically between 100 to 400 volts.

It’s not only essential to reach a high temperature to produce this arc, but it must be consistently maintained so it can successfully cut through metal easily. Also, plasma cutters must only be used with conductive materials, as the arc must be able to “jump” to the plasma torch on the metal piece or object from the electrode.

There are a number of reasons why plasma cutting can be dangerous, primarily when safety precautions are not implemented:

  • Plasma cutting involves the use of compressed gases, metals, and high temperatures, which produce dangerous fumes
  • The arc created by plasma welding is intense and may lead to eye injuries and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which requires proper personal protection equipment
  • Since the voltage is very high, the circuit must be closed, from the welding machine to the torch, metal, and the ground, to maintain safety
  • There are a lot of sparks, and molten metal frequently drops during the metal cutting process
  • Safety equipment must be high-quality and certified for plasma cutting, including a face protection shield, eye protection, and other equipment to ensure complete protection and prevent injury


Safety Precautions and Prevention


There are steps you can take and safety tips to follow when you use a plasma cutter to make your work safe, efficient, and productive. While many production facilities and construction sites provide extensive protection and safety equipment, smaller operations or home-based projects especially require special attention to ensure all safety precautions are taken.


Fire Hazard: Protect Your Eyes and Body


One of the most hazardous aspects of plasma cutting is the potential for fire; preventing it should be high on your safety list. Since this type of process creates a high level of heat and voltage power, it’s crucial to remove any materials that may pose a fire hazard, such as flammable paper, cloth, or other items that could easily ignite from molten metal or sparks.

  • Remove all unnecessary objects or items from the room and the immediate area around the plasma cutter. Keep flammable materials, pressurized gas, vapors, dust, and liquids at least 35 feet away from the plasma cutting equipment for the best safety.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the area
  • If you can’t remove all items from the vicinity of the plasma cutting machinery, use a flame-proof cover to protect the immediate area


Infrared Light: Protect Eyes and Skin


When you operate a plasma cutter, it’s essential to wear personal protective equipment to protect your eyes and skin.

  • Face shields protect your head, face, and eyes from debris, sparks, the intense light of the plasma arc, and radiation
  • Safety glasses should always be worn, in addition to a face shield. Safety glasses should be at a four or five-shade level to protect your eyes from the intensity of the light from arc flashes.
  • Welding gloves protect your hands from extreme heat, burns, and sparks


Electrocution Hazard: Stay Grounded


Plasma arc torches are specially designed to protect welders from electric shock, as they will turn off automatically if any part of the machine becomes loose or if the tip of the machine makes contact with the electrode.

These welding torches are equipped with safety interlock systems to keep you safe due to the high voltages of plasma cutting technology. You’ll also need to pay close attention to other hazards that could result in severe burns, shock, or fatal consequences:

  • Ensure the plasma cutter is on the non-conductive ground made with wood or a rubber mat. It’s also vital to ensure the non-conductive surface is protected against possible fire, as some of these materials are flammable. However, it should never be wet, as this can conduct electricity.
  • Remove and replace damaged or bare wires or parts of the plasma cutting machine. Avoid further use until all affected parts or pieces are repaired or replaced.
  • Always wear dry clothes and gloves and ensure the entire work area is dry to avoid electric shock

When all plasma cutting equipment is properly grounded and all other areas in and around the workspace are appropriately secured and prepared to prevent shock, plasma cutting becomes a safe method of performing many tasks.


Toxic Fumes Hazard: Protect Your Lungs


During the plasma arc cutting process, toxic fumes and gases are produced, much like other types of welding. For this reason, proper ventilation is a must, as well as respirators, to extract harmful fumes and toxic gases.

A respirator is essential if using a plasma cutter in a confined space, as ventilation may be limited. It may also be necessary to use a welding fume extractor, mainly if the airflow is restricted, though it’s best to refer to the safety codes and standards to ensure the proper equipment is used for this purpose. If certain metals or materials are coated, remove this layer to limit the amount of toxicity in fumes before you use a plasma cutter.


Where You Can Rent Plasma Cutting Safety Gear


When you need a safe, high-quality workspace to set up a plasma cutter, Sunbelt Rentals offers the best equipment, safety gear, and expert knowledge to ensure you have everything for a safe, productive work environment.

Let our team provide expert safety tips on which type of plasma cutting equipment and protection you need, whether you’re getting ready to prepare a home-based project, small operation, or a large-scale construction site.