Roughly sixty years ago, in the 1960s a new method for welders to use when cutting appeared on the scene: plasma cutters. The benefits of this new tool were evident straight away because the plasma cutter afforded a more precise and cleaner cut.

In its beginnings, the plasma cutter was a very expensive industrial tool that was used by professionals in large industrial settings. Thanks to progress, and new innovative technology, plasma cutters are still used by professionals in the metal industry, but also by hobbyists and DIYers for numerous home improvement and automotive projects.

safety glass very useful tool in the industry

PPE

Personal Protective Equipment is not only required by law but necessary for personal safety when using any type of welding equipment or applications. Plasma cutters are no exception to this rule as they pose a variety of risks for operators. 

Some of the principal hazards involved when using a plasma cutter include environmental air quality, noise pollution, or electrical hazards such as electrocution. When cutting through metal, heat, and sparks are produced, meaning there is also a risk for burns. Flying sparks, debris, intense light, and radiation can also reach your eyes

Plasma cutting eye protection is vital to your health and to your future. Injuries during plasma cutter operation can be permanent and life-changing.

Protecting Your Eyes During Plasma Cutter Use

The proper eye protection when operating a plasma cutter is fundamental and not just any pair of safety glasses will do. Eyes are delicate organs that are highly developed. That sensory development allows us to perceive varying levels of light, colors, depth, movement, and endangerment as well. Some eye injuries can be reversed, but others cannot and will cause permanent visual damage.

The proper eye protection protect eyes

Eye Hazards When Using a Plasma Cutter

Plasma Cutter Operation places your eyes at risk for several reasons. The most obvious of these hazards are sparks, metal particles, or debris that fly into the eye or eye area. But this isn’t the only danger. 

The construction of a plasma cutter itself accounts for another danger. Because plasma cutters produce an electric arc, they emit electromagnetic radiation that can range from infrared light to ultraviolet rays. Because of the intensity of this kind of light, eyes can be damaged, resulting in permanent blindness.

Eye Protection for Plasma Cutting – Plasma Cutter Safety Glasses

Precisely due to these risks associated with plasma cutter operation the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor requires the use of protective gear for metal welding and cutting. 

Plasma Cutter Safety glasses need to have filtered lenses that protect eyes from light radiation, and they are marked according to the amount of protection they provide. 

When searching for a suitable pair of plasma cutter safety glasses look for a “W” that signifies welding followed by a number. Markings such as W2.0, W3.0, or W5.0, which are varying levels of filter protection, should be found on appropriate safety glasses. Greater protection is afforded by a higher number.

The OSHA recommends the following eye protection when engaging in plasma arc cutting regarding to ANSI Z49.1.2005:

MethodAmperageMinimum Lens Shade protectionRecommended Lens Shade protection
Plasma Arc Cutting< 2044
20-4055
40-6066
  “60-8088
  “80-30089
  “300-400912
  “400-8001014

For plasma cutters that have an output of fewer than 20 amperes, a pair of standard safety glasses featuring a number 4 or 5 filter will suffice. For anything higher, a helmet with the correct filters is strongly recommended and required in professional industrial situations.

What to Look for in Protective Eye Wear for Plasma Cutters – ANSI Z87 Safety 

The American National Standards Institute or ANSI superintends safety standards in the U.S. It is an independent third-party organization that seeks to ensure health and safety in the workplace among other activities. 

Regarding eye protection, the ANSI has established the ANSI Z87.1 standard. OHSA standard 1910.133 requires all workers must wear safety glasses that have the ANSI Z87 rating. This rating ensures that the safety glasses goggles, face shields, or welding helmets you wear can protect eyes from injury.  This standard requires impact injury protection and the amount of coverage given, as well as a permanent marking that shows the PPE meets certification requirements.

The OHSA standard has been created thanks to the Z87 Committee on Safety Eye and Face Protection. This is captained by the ISEA-International Safety Equipment Association and endorsed by ANSI.

In 2020, the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 was updated and is identified as ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020. It is historically, the sixth revision to overall eye safety standards.

Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet light can potentially cause what is known as “Welder flash” or “arc eye” with torches being the principal culprits. This condition has often been described as your eye getting a sunburn. Appropriate filter lenses should meet established standards for radiant energy

Considering the quantity of UV light transmitted, safety glasses will have a rating of U2 through U6 with the higher number offering more protection. U6 rated glasses will block 99.9% of UV light produced when operating a plasma cutter.

 Safety Eyewear

Plasma Cutting Arcs and Safety Eyewear

Looking or staring at a plasma cutter arc can damage your eyes, as well as cause blindness. There are numerous brands and styles of plasma cutter safety glasses, goggles, and face shields currently available on the market for efficient eye protection. 

Some safety eyewear is “auto shade darkening”, meaning that it includes technology in the design that allows it to change the shade filter number, going lighter or darker, as needed.

When selecting, keep in mind these considerations:

  • Any protective eyewear needs to meet ANSI standards to protect from UV and infrared rays, as well as from heat, sparks, and flying debris.
  • The correct eyewear should have an adequate filter for your plasma cutter’s amperage output. 
  • A good test when selecting, is to select a filter shade that is so dark you are unable to see the cut zone clearly, then test a shade lighter until you find a shade that permits you to see the cut zone.

Conclusion

What kind of eye protection is necessary for safety when plasma cutting? – The most important consideration will be finding the appropriate filter shade. Depending on the amperage output, select your plasma cutter safety glasses or plasma cutter face shield accordingly.

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