Essential information for all employers running laser processes

When lasers are used, materials are released into the atmosphere. Where do you think they end up?

Cutting, coding and marking, engraving, welding…whatever laser process you are following, some form of contaminant is generated which can become airborne. They may be solid particles, gas or vapour. Most are invisible to the naked eye. All must be treated as hazardous. Employers have a responsibility to their staff and failure to take appropriate action can have serious consequences.

We explore in more detail here.

Did you know...

Lasers generate a much higher proportion of particles in the 1-5 micron range than other thermal processes?

The most harmful particle sizes are 1-3 microns.

Particles less than 30 microns are not visible to the naked eye. Almost all are inhalable.

The impact of fumes and particulate

Whether you’re running machinery in a school or a large scale factory, all airborne substances must be considered as potentially harmful:

Your equipment
Particles and droplets can enter equipment through process or during mechanical intervention. The optical system of the laser is susceptible to damage from particulate getting burnt on or building up on the lens, compromising the efficiency of the laser and the quality of the output. With no extraction in place, there’s no control over which direction those contaminants travel and the machine’s performance and reliability can very quickly become compromised. If left, over time, some contaminants can cause irreversible and very costly damage.

Minimising or eliminating contaminants is essential to ensuring optimum machine performance and reducing the amount of maintenance and cleaning requirements and reducing the risk of loss of product.

Exposure to hazardous substances can affect the body in many different ways and can cause problems for anyone who comes into contact with airborne particles. Skin contact, inhalation and ingestion can cause damage and the effects often build up over time.

Air purification is vital for health protection to reduce the long-lasting and sometimes fatal impact of uncontrolled fumes. Personal protective equipment should not be considered a substitute for proper fume control. Simply venting through a window or wall does not provide adequate local exhaust ventilation (LEV).

Did you know...

Toxic gases can cause ‘acute inhalation injury’ ranging from minor respiratory discomfort to acute lung and airway injury and, in extreme cases, even fatality.

The environment
The quality of our environment has a direct impact on our well-being. Capturing fumes and particulates and keeping them contained is the only way to ensure the environment is protected.

This extends beyond the immediate work environment as the deposition of airborne particles can have a negative and long-lasting impact on the natural and man-made environment, causing physical and chemical degradation of materials.

BOFA’s unrivalled specialist knowledge of laser processes means we can devise practical solutions for practical problems world-wide.

In our next article we’ll take a look at the laws and regulations that exist in the UK to protect staff exposed to hazardous fumes.

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