From Artificial Intelligence to Handcrafting: A Manufacturing Blog

Safety Guide for CNC Laser Cutting Without Protective Housing

by Jennifer Jones

CNC lasers cutters make it possible to cut materials such as metal, wood and plastics with great accuracy and precision. Unlike with manual or mechanical cutting, these machines do not have to make physical contact with the materials being cut. Those operating laser cutters simply have to focus a powerful laser beam on the material being cut.

But almost every work tool, piece of equipment or new technology used in the manufacturing world has a downside. When it comes to CNC laser cutters, the powerful laser beam used to cut materials also poses safety hazards to machine operators and those working near or around the manufacturing site. Direct exposure of the eyes or the skin to the beam can cause long term health-deteriorating effects, so it is important to ensure that such exposure is avoided. 

To minimise exposure to beam hazards, laser cutting jobs should be performed in protective enclosures. But if the enclosures are not available, here are some safety controls that manufacturers using CNC laser cutter can follow to protect their employees from beam hazards.

  • Access Controls: Only personnel trained to safely operate laser cutters should be used to operate the equipment. Access restrictions are necessary to prevent unauthorised staff from entering the area where laser cutters are being used. Doorways should be locked up at all times, regardless of whether or not the laser cutters. Appropriate signage should be posted at the doors to indicating that only authorised personnel are allowed access to the laser system.
  • Eye Protection: Providing operators with laser protective eyewear is imperative to keeping the eyes protected, especially during laser alignment procedures when most accidents tend to happen. For safe viewing, protective eyewear used must have the appropriate optical density and absorption wavelength rating. Ensuring that protective eyewear fits properly is also crucial to ensuring optimal eye protection.
  • Skin Protection: Laser beams contain ultraviolet rays that are harmful when exposed to the human skin. In fact, ultraviolet radiation is carcinogenic, meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer. Hence, exposure of the skin to this type of radiation poses a severe hazard, and skin protection is of crucial importance. Covering unprotected skin by wearing full-length clothing, an UV face shield, and gloves can help protect against stray UV radiation. 

In case of any accidental exposure to chronic levels of laser beams, employees operating or working near or around laser cutting equipment should make sure they see a doctor or physician immediately.