It’s a true saying; every good safety program starts from the top. If management isn’t showing a commitment then it’s going to be hard for employees to buy into the safety process. However, it’s the operator of the equipment who has the most responsibility – and the most “skin in the game”. So, this email is directed to the operators of plasma cutting equipment.
Let’s start off by listing the known facts about Plasma machines and torches.
1. They create heat. The plasma torch, the thing that gets held in the hand, is going to generate an Arc that has heat of between 20,000°C and 30,000°C. Earth’s core is 5,500 °C.
2. They use electrical power. Remember this simple formula: The power supply setting on the machine = the current going through the Arc and Cable.
3. The cutting process generates a hot shower of sparks. Not the
kind of shower you want landing on your hair or face.
4. For Plasma cutting to work, it needs a complete circuit. And if it can’t create a circuit then it’ll create one: which could be the operator.
There’s a famous saying about fire: it makes a wonderful servant but a terrifying master. We can say that about plasma cutting, too.
The way to keep the plasma cutting as a useful servant is by reducing the risks.
1. PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
This may seem like a no brainer but … Those sparks are hot bits of molten metal. Here’s a link to prove why you need PPE. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQF_Bb42Hvs
Of course, you wear coveralls. The question is: how well buttoned up are you? It’s possible for a hot spark to find an open gap in your coveralls and ignite your underclothes. You’re concentrating on cutting your work piece, and not noticing that your under clothing has caught on fire – underneath your coveralls. This can lead to a bad burn and a slow rehabilitation (true story).
2. Safeguards Built into the Machine and Torch
The manufacturers have done a good job in helping making the machines safer. There are auto sensors on the torch and the power source. These sensors must check back with the correct information. If that information is missing – it ain’t gonna start.
3. Observe and Check
As much as manufacturers have made their machines easier and safer to operate, it hasn’t eliminated the need for observing and checking. This simple task becomes more important when more than one person is using the same machine (e.g. shift work). Here’s a list of things to observe and check.
– The Ground needs to be checked. Your connections are tight and in good shape. If there’s a problem with the connections then heat is going to be created. This heat can cause things to melt and/or ruin the connection. And if the connection becomes compromised, then the circuit will look for a new route: this is where the operator can become part of the new path for the ground. That’s not part of anyone’s job description.
Also, do not connect the ground to the piece you’re cutting. Same reason as above, you don’t want to be creating new circuits.
– The Torch needs to be examined. Are the consumables in good shape? Are they the correct consumables? Electrodes have different amperage ratings.
Is the torch cable in good shape? You’re looking for burn marks or cuts. You don’t want kinks in the cable or any other physical damage.
– The Work Area. It’s recommended that there’s a 35’surrounding area, clear of flammable gas, dust or any other combustible material.
You need proper lighting to see what you’re doing. You don’t want to work in crowded or cramped areas. You don’t want to be in an area that’s wet or damp.
Another thing to consider is the ventilation in your working space. Not all materials are alike – some are more toxic than others.
Tip: Getting Longer Life out of Your Torch and Consumables
Do you want longer life from your consumables? Install a good filtration system for your air supply. It needs these 3 parts to be very successful: Water and Particle Filter, Oil Filter, and Oil Vapor Filter
Then check to make sure the filtration system is doing its job by examining the filter bowl. If it’s doing its job, there should be oil and water in the bowl. Empty the bowl.
Some Manufacturers have a slick way of testing whether fluids are getting through to the torch. You set the machine to GAS TEST mode. Place the torch over a white piece of paper. Engage the TEST mode. If everything goes correctly, the paper will remain white. If not,” Houston we have problems”.
The plasma has become a well-accepted cutting tool. It’s easy to use, makes wonderful cuts, and is able to cut different metals that the acetylene torch can’t. It should serve you well – don’t let it become your boss.