LASER Cutting Devices-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

LASER Cutting Devices

LASER cutting devices are versatile tools that can be used to cut or drill wood, plastics, and metals.  These devices are economical, efficient and can easily be automated.  Due to these features, these devices have found their way to campus.  Before you purchase this type of equipment there are some things to consider. 

Typically, these LASERs are classified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as Class 1 LASERs.  Class 1 LASERs emit low levels of energy that are not hazardous to the eyes or skin.  However, enclosed within these devices are often Class 3B or 4 LASERs which are capable of emitting high levels of energy which are hazardous to the eyes and skin.  Therefore, the beams generated by these devices are safe when operated according to manufacturer’s instructions, but only trained personnel should perform maintenance and other procedures that involve breaching the enclosure. 

These devices can also be hazardous when used to cut or drill certain materials.  As the beam strikes these materials, they may produce Laser-generated Air Contaminants (LGAC).  These  LGACs may be gaseous or particulate and can, under certain conditions, pose health risks to those exposed to them.  The LGAC generated depends on the type of material being cut or drilled.  Cutting or drilling of some materials can generate airborne benzene, toluene, hydrochloric acid, isocyanates, and other by-products, which may be hazardous. 

To control the hazards associated with cutting or drilling certain materials, ventilation systems must be used to reduce or eliminate personnel exposures, and to safely exhaust these by-products.

EH&S must be consulted before the purchase or acquisition of these systems so that the need for ventilation systems, if any, can be addressed and to ensure that all other potential hazards and issues are evaluated and controlled to the greatest extent feasible. For more information, please contact Andrew Lawson at 8-8405 or Mark Banister at 8-1493. 

By: Andrew Lawson, alawson@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-8405