An oxy-fuel cutting torch is one of the most useful, but dangerous tools. It provides welders with a convenient and clean way to efficiently cut metal. However, when using a cutting torch, you are literally playing with fire, which means safety is extremely important.
First, it’s important to understand the triangle of combustion. Combustion requires fuel, oxygen, and a source of ignition, which are all elements that need to be controlled. Oxy-fuel processes produce sparks and flames, so having a clean, well-ventilated workspace is essential to safe operation. This process also produces small amounts of infrared rays, so be sure to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment as outlined in ANSI Z87.1.
Safe handling ultimately comes down to how you handle both the oxygen and fuel gas cylinders, the pressure coming out of the cylinders and the regulators. Here are some safety guidelines and video demonstrations from Harris Products Group:
Transport cylinders with caps installed.
Securely chain cylinders to a cart or structure.
Remove the cylinder caps and store in a safe place.
Debris is the enemy of a regulator, so make sure the valves are free of debris. Aim the oxygen cylinder valve outlet away from you, people and flammable surfaces and open the oxygen cylinder valve momentarily to blow out any trapped debris. DO NOT crack the fuel gas valve. Instead, clean it out with a wet cloth.
Visually inspect the oxygen and fuel gas regulator for damaged surfaces. Do not use the regulator if there are any damaged components.
Inspect the inlet and outlet ports to ensure they are clean and free of oil or debris.
Assemble regulators onto the cylinder valves and tighten with a wrench.
Turn the regulator adjusting knob or screw counter-clockwise until it moves freely with no tension.
S-L-O-W-L-Y open the oxygen cylinder valve first and then the fuel gas cylinder valve.
Check both the oxygen and fuel gas regulators for leaks with a solution of warm soapy water or a pressure test. If using warm soapy water, apply the solution to the inlet connection and observe for leaks indicated by the formation of bubbles. If bubbles form, re-tighten the cylinder connection with a wrench and repeat the test. If bubbles continue to form, DO NOT USE and contact your gas supplier. For the pressure test, turn off the cylinder valve and wait 2-3 minutes. If the pressure on the gauge drops, then there is a leak. Re-tighten the connection and repeat the pressure test. If the pressure continues to drop, DO NOT USE and contact your gas supplier.
Now, you’re ready to install the hoses and cutting torch…
How to install a cutting torch
Inspect both hoses for cracks.
Attach the hoses and tighten the connections with a wrench.
Inspect the torch for damage and close the valves. Do not use the torch if there are damaged components.
Ensure hoses are straight and not kinked.
Check the entire system for leaks: Turn the oxygen regulator adjusting screw clockwise to get 10 psi on the gauge. Once we have 10 psi, perform a pressure test by closing the oxygen cylinder valve and observing both gauges for 2-3 minutes to ensure the pressure does not drop. Release the excess pressure by opening the oxygen torch valve.
Conduct the same pressure test with the fuel gas.
Open the oxygen and fuel gas cylinder valves again. Set the proper pressures based on manufacturer’s recommendations. Pressures should be set to “at flow.”
Always purge the system before lighting any torch! Always use torches that have check valves. Flashback arrestors can be used where appropriate. Contact the gas equipment manufacturer for guidelines on when and how to use flashback arrestors.
Now, let’s look at how to light the torch and adjust the flame…
How to light, adjust and shut down an oxy-fuel torch
Light only the fuel gas. You should never light both gasses at the same time!
Determine if you have too much fuel gas, too little fuel gas, or the right amount. You are looking for a properly adjusted, or “neutral flame,” which is a sharply defined inner cone with no outer feather
If you have too little fuel gas, you will have a smoky flame. Clear the smoke by opening up the fuel valve more and introduce the oxygen to adjust to a “neutral flame.”
If you have too much fuel gas, close the fuel gas needle valve, clear the smoke and introduce the oxygen.
Always shut off the oxygen first, and then the fuel gas to extinguish the oxy fuel torch.
For more detailed safety information, please refer to Harris Products Oxy-Fuel Safety Guidelines. This blog is intended to offer useful reminders and guidelines–NOT to serve as a substitute for full hands-on operator safety training.
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