Plasma Cutting Dangers Using A Hand held Machine
This article assumes that the user is familiar with how to use a Plasma cutter.
The Plasma cutter is without doubt a very useful addition to a welding & fabrication
workshop. Various models are available from a small sheet metal version right up to
a monster that can handle 25mm thick and more.
I’ve been in the welding trade all of my working life and used plenty of plasma cutters.
As I have got older and hopefully wiser, I have come to believe that using a plasma cutter
the wrong way is probably very dangerous to your health.
Most people I have observedare usually cutting either steel plate,Stainless sheet or Aluminium plate and aren’t bothered
about wearing any PPE. By this I mean that they are not wearing any eye protection or wearing any fume protection.” I’ve been there and got several T shirts”. Not anymore!
The minimum recommended eye shade that I would now use is a grade 5 green (similar to a
welding mask only not so dark).
You can quite easily get arc eye from the plasma arc so be
really careful and don’t burn out your eyes. Obviously it would be a good idea to wear a pair of gloves as well.
The next big warning is the fumes that envelope your head as you lean over the work piece.
Now the fumes from mild steel are not great but Stainless steel will have lots of nasty bits in it.
The main one being Chromium. This is not good for you at all. Try to use a powerful fume extractor or at the very least, a good quality face mask that is designed to keep out welding fumes. Don’t bother with the ones that are really light and flimsy with a strip of Aluminium over the bridge of the nose that you are supposed to bend to suit your nose shape. Go instead for the type that have the inflated rubber cushion around the rim that seals against your face and also that have the rubberflap in the middle that acts as a one way air valve. Moldex do a good one of these although there are different grades of filter so read the packet.
Now we have talked about mild steel and stainless steel but the real danger in my opinion is
If you watch someone who is cutting Aluminium with a plasma cutter, just look at how much Aluminium Oxide fumes are coming off the job. It will scare you!
Several years ago in Cornwall, UK, a water treatment plant was contaminated accidentally with Aluminium oxide being added to drinking water. Many people who drank the water have developed all kinds of illnesses and many of them seem to be linked to the brain and dimentia.
I am a firm believer that breathing in clouds of Aluminium oxide is a real danger so please make sure you and other workers are protected with fume masks.
Only last week at a friends workshop I saw a young lad aged about 20 years old, merrily using a plasma cutter with no eye protection or fume protection. MADNESS!
Most of the CNC plasma cutting machines should have a built in fume extraction system but be wary anyway.
Look after your health!