Safety Focus: Realizing Chip Hazards

Portable machine tools generate cutting debris that differs significantly from flame cutters, grinders and saws. The advantages that cold cutting has over these other cutting methods are first, as the name implies, a cold cut does not produce the sparks that can ignite oils and gases in the cutting area. Secondly, cutting methods other than cold cutting generate particulate debris that can pose problems in many controlled or hazardous environments

Cold cutting involves forcing a sharp tool bit through the workpiece “slicing” through the parent material. Bits are designed to curl the cutting debris outward and often include a “chip breaker” geometry designed to break the chip occasionally. Depending on variables such as bit speed, cut depth and the material being cut, chips can flake off in short curls or can sometimes form long spring-like strands that can whip around the pipe and cause injury. In either case, chips are typically razor sharp and can be extremely hot from the cutting friction.

Extreme care must be taken to clear sharp chips away from a cut in progress. Do not hesitate to stop the machine in order to safely clear the tool path and never grasp chips with bare hands. Always use a long hook or pliers designed for safe chip removal. Remember to control chip accumulations on the floor to prevent slips or trips when using rotating machines. Chips may also be coated with cutting oils and/or coolants which can further cause work area slipping.

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