Laser Welding Safety: Best Practices and Protective Measures

Hazards of Lasers

Lasers used in welding and cutting have extremely high output power or energy. Laser equipment involves high-voltage excitation power sources ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of volts, which can harm the human body. Additionally, lasers are invisible light, easy to overlook, and often neglected. Therefore, special attention should be given to laser safety protection during laser processing.

The main targets for laser safety protection are the eyes and skin. Moreover, it’s critical to prevent fires and electric shocks, which can otherwise lead to casualties or other severe accidents.

Damage to the Eyes

The eyes are the most critical and delicate organs of the human body, and they are the most susceptible to laser damage. Generally, direct exposure to sunlight or arc light can harm the eyes, and the brightness of a laser is several orders of magnitude higher than the sun or an arc, causing serious damage to the eyes.

1) Direct exposure to a laser can cause burns due to the laser’s heating effect, resulting in instant blindness, which is extremely dangerous and serious. Even a few milliwatts of He-Ne laser, although low power, can damage the retina due to the optical focusing effect of the human eye.

2) During laser processing, reflections from the workpiece surface can also harm the eyes. The danger level of strong reflections is nearly the same as direct exposure, while diffused light can cause chronic damage, leading to visual impairment. Therefore, eye protection is especially important during laser processing.

Damage to the Skin

Direct laser exposure can cause skin burns, especially after focusing, where the laser power density is extremely high, causing more severe damage leading to severe burns. Long-term exposure to diffused UV and infrared light can result in skin aging, inflammation, and skin cancer.

Other Hazards

Direct laser exposure or strong reflections can ignite combustibles, causing a fire. During laser welding, materials evaporate and vaporize due to laser heating, producing various toxic metal fumes. High-power lasers generate ozone when heated, posing a certain health risk. Long-term work in a laser environment can lead to fatigue.

Simultaneously, the laser contains high voltage ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of volts, posing a risk of electric shock.

Laser Safety Protection

General Protection

The safety protection of lasers should start with the laser welding equipment:

1) The laser processing equipment should have prominent danger warning signs and signals, such as “Laser Danger,” “High Voltage Danger,” etc., and the equipment should have various safety protection devices.

2) The laser optical path system should be as fully enclosed as possible, such as conveying the laser through a metal tube to prevent direct exposure. If the laser path cannot be completely closed, the laser should pass above human height to avoid the eyes, head, and other vital organs. The laser processing table should be shielded with glass to prevent reflected light.

3) The laser processing site should also have safety signs and use preventive barriers, partition walls, screens, etc., to prevent unrelated personnel from accidentally entering the danger zone.

Personal Protection

Personal protection from lasers should take note of the following points:

1) On-site operators and processing personnel of lasers must be equipped with laser safety glasses and wear white work clothes to reduce the impact of diffused reflections.

2) Only experienced personnel are allowed to operate lasers and perform laser processing.

3) The welding area should be equipped with effective ventilation devices.

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