Waterjet cutting is by far the most precise and high-quality cutting method out there. It has the capability to cut through even the hardest materials with a thickness of more than 12 inches. Therefore, professionals across various industries are opting for waterjet cutting tools as their go-to industrial cutting technology.
Professionals switching over to this method or considering it as a possibility often have questions about the water jet cutting safety. It is important for a cutting method to be safe to avoid any possibility of workforce injury. Therefore, let us dissect the safety of water jet cutting in detail:
What is Waterjet Cutting?
Water jet cutting utilizes an extremely thin beam of water (thinner than a human hair) to pierce through materials. This method is not limited to any particular group of materials and can work on all kinds of surfaces. From the hardest metal alloys to the softer materials like paper and foam, everything can be cut using waterjet cutting with extreme precision and quality.
Are Waterjet Cutting Tools Safe?
As is the case with other industrial cutting tools, the safety of waterjet cutting is depending on how the operator uses it. Obviously, since the water stream is able to cut through 12 inches of hardest metals there is a possibility of waterjet injury if operated incorrectly. It can easily pierce through body parts if they come under the water stream directly. The cutting edge of a waterjet cutter is sharper than a blade.
However, it is possible to eliminate the risk of waterjet injury by following proper safety protocols. We will discuss these safety protocols in the later sections.
What Are the Main Hazards Of Waterjet Cutting Technology?
Waterjet injury can be damage to any body parts that come in the way. Commonly encountered hazards are:
Life Threatening Damages
Waterjet cutting, if not properly handled, can be life-threatening at times. For instance, if the water stream passes through the body, it can cause internal bleeding or puncture wounds. Since waterjet operators do not wear full body gear, these injuries can only be avoided by handling the equipment properly.
Additionally, in case of injury caused by a water jet, immediate medical attention is a must. Even if the injury is not visible or apparent, seeking medical attention is still mandatory.
Ear damage in waterjet cutting is not caused directly by the water stream. The ear damage occurs due to the high noise generated in the process. Waterjet cutting is noisy, especially when cutting hard materials for a prolonged period of time. This can cause hearing issues for the workforce in the vicinity. Commonly encountered hearing problems are tinnitus and deafness. However, these hazards are very easy to avoid by using adequate hearing protection equipment. Additionally, underwater cutting can also eliminate most of the loud noise.
Eye damage can occur due to the direct as well as indirect water splashes. This damage can come in the form of cornea injury (like scratches), retinal injuries, dislocation, and even blindness. Eye hazards are also easy to avoid by using protection goggles when operating a waterjet cutting machine.
Blast damage occurs due to the sheer force of water against your hands. This is not just limited to minor scratches. Waterjet cutters can easily cut off the entire fingers if they come in the way of the water stream. Even the sharp corners of the supporting plates can cause injuries to the fingers and hands. The best way to avoid these injuries is by using anti-cut-proof gloves during the process.
Abrasive waterjet cutting has the possibility of sharp abrasive materials piercing the skin of the operating workforce. This can cause skin infections later on. Additionally, when cutting toxic materials, the material dust itself can settle under the skin and cause serious infections. Therefore, it is important to follow not only the proper safety measures but also to clean the cutting table regularly.
Tips to Ensure Water Jet Cutting Safety
Waterjet cutting is an industrial cutting machine. Therefore, it deserves the safety precautions of the same. Following the tips mentioned below will ensure that you are kept safe during the cutting process. It is even recommended to have these tips printed out and kept posted in the workplace. After all, taking these safety precautions lightly can even cause fatal accidents.
1. Adequate Equipment: It is vital to use good quality equipment, especially when it comes to waterjet cutting. Having a poor-quality machine can cause injuries even when all the safety precautions are followed. Additionally, good quality equipment will only end up saving money in the long term. For instance, Techni Waterjet cutters are one of the safest and most reliable waterjet cutters in the industry.
2. Company Policies: If you are an operator or a member of the workforce, ensure that the company you work for has a proper safety policy in place. The work environment should be approved by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations.
3. Intoxicated State: Never operate a waterjet cutter or any other heavy industrial equipment in a state of intoxication or under the influence of any drugs such as sedatives.
4. User Manual: Every waterjet cutter is different with different safety precautions. For instance, the safety ppe equipment of one waterjet cutter might work differently from another one. Therefore, read the user manual carefully before operating the waterjet cutter for the first time.
5. Protective Gear: The protective gear for waterjet cutting is different from other industrial processes. Ensure that you are wearing a hydro jet cutting safety pressure protective equipment.
6. Glasses: To prevent eye damage, safety goggles are essential. Ensure that your safety goggles are ISO-approved.
7. Ear Protection: To prevent ear damage, wear adequate ear protection equipment.
8. Safety Gloves: There are many types of safety gloves available. For adequate protection in the waterjet technology association, ensure that you wear kevlar reinforced cut-resistant safety gloves.
9. Additional Protection: Additional protection includes knee pads, shin pads, and helmets. Even with added protection, make sure to stay away from the waterjet stream at all times.
10. Installing Spares: Always be on the lookout for leaks or damages and in case of damage, replace the part at the earliest. For spares, only use the parts recommended by the manufacturer. Going for aftermarket third-party components can cause damage to the machine and injury to the people working in the work area.
11. Waterjet Medical Alert Cards: Keep a Waterjet Medical Alert Card in your person at all times. In case of an injury, promptly show this card to a doctor. These cards are available from the Waterjet Technology Association (WJTA) at a very negligible price.
12. Purpose Oriented: Waterjet cutting equipment is purpose oriented for industrial cutting. Only use the equipment for this desired purpose. Using a waterjet cutter for any other purpose not recommended by the manufacturer will result in waterjet injury.
13. Pinch Points: Pinch points are the points where your fingers can get pinched. These injuries occur not due to the water stream itself, but other machine parts. Lookout for the pinch point locations in your machine. Common pinch-point injuries occur between the slats and the nozzle, or between the slats and the workpiece material.
14. Mods: Never make any modifications to the waterjet machines that are not sanctioned by the manufacturer. Making modifications will damage the machine and can cause fatal injuries.
15. Protective Panels: Waterjet machines use highly pressurized equipment running at extremely high voltages. Never open any protective panels on the machine. This can cause pressure-related injuries or electrical injuries.
16. Motion Controls: Understand the motion range and the direction of the movements of the machine. Familiarizing yourself with the motion control of the machine will eliminate the possibility of future injuries.
17. Live Wires: Do not make physical contact with the live wires coming into the machine, or any of the electrical components. In case of any electrical help, call a qualified electrician for assistance. As mentioned earlier, waterjet machines consume a heavy amount of electricity that should not be handled without technical knowledge. Additionally, make sure the waterjet system follows the local electrical code requirement regarding 440 V, 3-phase power (or the power requirement of your particular waterjet machine).
18. Lifting Equipment: Load and unload the workpiece material with a proper lifting device to avoid finger injuries through slats and pinching points.
19. No DIY: Certain users try to DIY their way into high-pressure water jet systems. This is a very wrong practice and you should never try to create your own high-pressure water jet system.
20. Clean Work Area: Ensure that the work area is clean and free from clutter. This will help in safer operating conditions and also eliminate any contaminations.
21. Monitoring: Always monitor the waterjet machines when they are operating. Do not leave a running waterjet cutter unattended at any time.
22. Hands: Always ensure that your hands do not go near the nozzle when the waterjet cutter is operating.
23. Safety Guards: All waterjet machines come with a number of safety measures and covers. Never operate the cutter without any of the safety equipment.
24. Tank: When handling material in the tank, use proper care.
25. Maintenance: Follow the proper maintenance protocol suggested by the manufacturer. When doing maintenance, ensure that you enable the lockout/Tagout modes.
26. Handling Injuries: In case an injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention of a qualified physician. Medical attention is important even if there are no visible injuries.
27. Equipment Safety Precautions: Whenever you use heavy-duty equipment such as waterjet machines, read the safety precautions beforehand. In case there are no safety precautions, step away from the equipment and do not use it.
28. Waste Material Disposal: Dispose of any waste materials generated in the process properly, depending on the type of waste generated.
29. Explosions: Take explosive atmosphere precautions in case there are any possible risks of explosions or fires.
30. Ventilation: Ensure that the work environment has proper ventilation for a healthy operation.
Waterjet machines can be one of the safest equipment to operate, provided you follow the safety tips that come along with the machine. Simply wearing safety ppe equipment is not enough, you need to be trained in operating a waterjet and avoid doing things that the manufacturer prohibits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, a water jet can easily cut fingers. Water jet cutters operate at a force that can cut through a couple of feet of metals, so cutting fingers or limbs is quite possible with a waterjet. Therefore, following the adequate safety protocol with the waterjet machine is essential.
Yes, a waterjet machine can easily cut your hand or cause serious injuries. In fact, a water jet cutter can even cut your hand even when the machine is turned off. This is due to the slats and pinching points on the machine.