Engraving is an age-old design process that has evolved and endured over time to include many techniques and materials. However, like any other industry, there are numerous health and safety concerns that engravers must be aware of to prevent accidents and other mishaps from happening on the job. Here are five vital health and safety issues that are often overlooked in the engraving industry.
1. Fire Outbreaks
Fire outbreaks are a genuine threat in the engraving industry, especially when laser engraving at home. Rarely is it common to notice small flames when laser engraving your material. Flames less than two inches typically fizzle out on their own in seconds, but you may need a blanket to put out flames that continue burning before they spread. A fire extinguisher is typically ideal for dousing flames bigger than two inches. Therefore, it isn't uncommon to see fire extinguishers at the facilities of professional engravers and experts such as The Engraving People, even though the risk of fires in such environments is low.
2. Workspace Cleanliness
Safety and cleanliness work hand-in-hand to minimize injury risks, so clean workshops are necessary to prevent any hazards. Sawdust and other lingering particles in the air from laser engraving can ignite and cause explosions. Also, leftover scrap in your workshop is always a fire hazard since these materials burn quickly. Consequently, always keep a clutter-free and clean workshop to reduce any safety risks.
3. Eye Safety
Safety goggles are a must when engraving various materials, but many DIY engravers often do without this safety equipment. Laser engraving undoubtedly carries a high risk of eye damage since even a low capacity laser engraver dissipates light energy that is thrice as strong as the sun's rays. Exposure to this intense light can significantly damage your cornea, lens, and retina, so it is always best to use safety goggles before engraving.
4. Materials You Must Avoid
Marble, paper, metal, glass, wood, and fabric are prime examples of broad material categories you can laser engrave. However, it is a huge mistake to assume that laser engraving is appropriate for all materials since you may be putting yourself at risk of inhaling deadly fumes. For example, PVC plastic fumes can be lethal even if inhaled in minute doses, so you should never work on PVC with lasers. In addition, fibreglass, polypropylene, coated carbon fibre, HDPE, and ABS are some other materials you shouldn't engrave with lasers. As a general rule, many experts recommend avoiding any materials you aren't sure about, as well as known flammable materials, so keep this in mind when laser engraving.
5. Leaving Lasers Unattended
Although many laser engravers are fast, specific jobs may take hours to complete. Consequently, many engravers sometimes abandon their machines while the job runs. However, this can cause fires and material melting in some instances, so a laser operator always needs to be around while laser engraving is ongoing. If you need to take breaks from monitoring, it is always best to notify another operator to take your place before leaving.