Laser marking is critical in several businesses, companies, and industries due to its accuracy, precision, and non-contact form mechanism. Although it has many applications, the process has many associated hazards and personal injuries, such as skin and eye damage. As a result, operators must follow some safety guidelines when laser marking. There are several control measures you can use with laser marking, and in this article, you will learn about the safety guidelines to prevent and control laser marking hazards.
Common Laser Hazards
The degree of hazard experienced by the operator depends on the laser beam wavelength and the duration of exposure. Common hazards experienced by people include:
· Eye Injuries
This is the most severe of all the risks associated with lasers because the cornea, lens, and retina, critical human parts, are susceptible. As a result, the operator must protect themselves as damage to such parts can lead to partial or total vision loss. Furthermore, it can lead to photokeratitis, cataracts, eyelid cancer, or retina infringement, depending on the part of the eye.
· Skin Injuries
Skin damage can result from direct contact with the laser beam and specular reflections. The degree of burn experienced depends on the exposure time, wavelength and laser power, and exposure area. Operators must protect their skin from radiation as skin injuries can become aggravated, dry up, flake, itch, and turn redder or darker.
· Fire Hazards
In addition to posing health risks, laser light can cause fire and endanger employees. Operators need to be especially careful when working with class IV lasers. Of all classes of lasers, class IV poses a threat to fire safety of all classes of lasers as they can ignite combustible materials from their direct beam or any reflection.
Safety Guidelines to Follow when Laser Marking
Safety guidelines allow you to control laser beams and prevent the occurrence of hazards and injuries. There are three main categories of safety guidelines you can use, discussed below:
This control is an important part of every business or company using a laser marker machine that allows them to protect their personnel, working space, and equipment
· Work With Trained Personnel
Unskilled operators are liable to misuse laser marking machines putting them at risk of injuries earlier discussed. Before employing an individual, ensure they have received the necessary training and instructions on laser marking.
Proper training reduces accidental exposure to laser beams. Furthermore, equipment is not damaged as skilled operators can align the laser beam and detect malfunctioning equipment early.
· Put Up a Warning Sign
Put up a warning sign where a laser marker is being used to ensure that employees and visitors are aware of the risks. The sign should also include certain types of reflective clothing operators should not wear.
· Proper Usage and Maintenance of the Laser Marking Machine
To prevent accidents, install modules that allow proper use and maintenance of laser marking machines. For example, ensure sufficient ventilation to prevent fire outbreaks—properly removing residues and debris for a clean environment and marking processes. Furthermore, the use of exhausting fume systems to remove the generation of fumes and the use of fire extinguishers in cases of a fire outbreak.
· Use Only Approved Materials
Some materials emit hazardous and corrosive fumes during marking, putting the operator and other employees at risk. As a result, businesses should only mark compatible materials.
The control here contains safety guidelines targeted at the personnel and equipment.
· Protective Enclosure
Protective enclosures are an effective way of controlling and preventing laser marking hazards and injuries. They function by enclosing the machine and the part from the environment, thereby reducing the exposure of the laser beam and lessening the risk associated with such exposure.
Create a shield around the head of the marker. Doing this protects operators and other employees from unintentional reflected light. The material used for shielding should have the appropriate heat and reflectance properties to block reflected laser light.
· Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)
It may be necessary to wear PPEs when engineering control is insufficient to prevent access to direct or reflected beams at levels exceeding the maximum permissible limits. However, using PPEs as the only control measure may not be effective in using class IV lasers.
· Protective Eyewear
Protective eyewear prevents your eyes from getting irradiated with laser marking machines, especially the class III and IV lasers. Examples of protective eyewear include laser safety goggles, face shields, or eyewear with particular filter materials.
Each laser marking system has a pair of laser safety glasses specific to their wavelength. Common ones include:
- CO2 lasers with a wavelength of 10.6-micrometre work with eyeglasses with an optical density of 5-7.
- Fiber lasers with a wavelength of 1090 nanometer work with eyeglasses with an optical density of 6 and above.
Note: Operators should wear protective eyewear throughout the marking process
· Protective Bodywear
When using class IV lasers, operators must wear flame-resistant clothing and take every precaution to safeguard their skin. This is because skin burns when the body comes in contact with a laser beam. Also, puncture wounds and lacerations could result from sharp edges.
Keep the protective wear and eyewear in a separate case or storage unit to prevent scratches and contamination. Any damage can compromise the level of protection.
Classes of Lasers
Laser marker classification is based on wavelength, power, and pulse duration. Below are the classes of lasers.
· Class I lasers
Class I lasers have a full enclosure that helps prevent exposure to dangerous beams, which makes their exposure limit below the maximum permissible exposure. As a result, they are safe when operated under normal use.
· Class II Lasers
These consist of laser markers with wavelengths ranging from 400 to 700 nanometers. They are safe to use due to the blink reflex of the eyes. However, intentional viewing can lead to eye damage.
· Class IIIr Lasers
They are safe if handled correctly. They may be hazardous under direct and specular reflection viewing conditions but are not normally hazardous for diffuse reflections.
· Class IIIb Lasers
The power output is between 5 and 499 milliwatts. So, they may be hazardous and must include both safety interlocks and a key switch. Class IIIb lasers may be dangerous under direct and specular reflections. However, they are not normally hazardous for diffuse reflections.
· Class IV Lasers
They are potentially dangerous as a direct beam is hazardous to the eyes and skin. Even diffuse reflections may be harmful. Most laser markers are in this category and must include safety interlocks and a key switch. An example is the HS-FL20.
Overview of Laser Standards
Laser markers pose a health risk. As a result, standards had to be set that offer the necessary laser safety precautions. All standards explain the different classes of lasers, safety, precautions, laser marking, appropriate labels, and how to compute specific laser parameters.
Different organizations regulate the process of laser marking. The groups in charge of enforcing laser safety have modified the IEC’s standards to meet the demands of different industries.
For the safety and health of employees and to avoid long-term and immediate harm, it is necessary to put safety measures in place when using laser marking machines. Do you need further questions on safety measures or a quality machine? Kindly check through our catalog or contact us.