Welding is a process whereby different metal parts are joined together by heating the surfaces to their respective melting points. It is classified as hot work by OSHA and brings significant hazards. However, welding can be made quite safe if guidelines for best practices are followed. These guidelines help mitigate the risk of accidents and injuries, and allow workers to avoid any potential hazards.
In workplaces, it is the responsibility of employers to provide appropriate training to employees and ensure compliance with safety guidelines. A vital component of such training is awareness of the most common dangers, and knowledge of how to avoid them.
One of the most immediate risks faced by a welder is electric shock. It is a severe threat which can lead to serious injury or death. It occurs when a welder inserts themselves into an electrical circuit by touching together two metal objects that have a voltage between them.
An arc welding circuit’s secondary voltage shock is the most common electric shock. It ranges from 20 to 100 volts. Note that a shock of 50 volts or even less can prove fatal in certain conditions. Injuries are caused either by the shock itself or by a fall in reaction to the shock. Electric shocks can be avoided by:
- Avoiding skin contact with the electrode or metal parts
- Wearing dry gloves and clothing
- Insulating yourself from the metals being welded
- Using dry insulation between the body and the ground
Burns are the most common welding injury. They are caused by a lack of, or improper, personal protective equipment [PPE]. Eye damage from exposure to arc rays is another common hazard. Other common injuries include bruises and cuts to toes and fingers. Use of proper PPE not only protects against such injuries but allows freedom of movement as well.
Recommended clothing for welding includes flame-resistant treated cotton and leather. Avoid using synthetic materials such as rayon or polyester as they melt when exposed to extreme heat. Flame-resistant leather gloves, hearing protection, and helmets with side shields are also highly recommended.
Fumes and Gases
Welding fumes contain complex metal oxide compounds which can be severely hazardous to your health.
- Acute exposure to welding fumes can cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat, nausea, and dizziness.
- Prolonged exposure could cause lung damage, kidney damage, stomach ulcers, nervous system damage, and cancers of the larynx, lung, and urinary tract.
It is important, therefore, to have sufficient exhaust and ventilation in the welding area. Respirators, fans, and exhaust systems control exposure to harmful substances in welding fumes and gases.
Fires and Radiation
Extreme temperatures created by welding arcs constitute an unavoidable fire and explosion hazard. The arc emits intense infrared, ultraviolet [UV], and visible radiation. The UV radiation is particularly dangerous as it burns unprotected skin, and causes skin cancer with long term exposure. The arc also produces extreme heat, sparks, and spatter which can reach up to 35 feet away.
All flammable materials should thus be removed from the welding area before work is begun. Examples include oil, gasoline, paint, cardboard, paper, wood, acetylene, hydrogen, and propane.
Safe Welding with 360Training.com
Welders should be educated to always be aware of the environment in which they work. Confined spaces or elevated areas for example may require different or unique equipment and safety considerations. Managers, supervisors, and workers should, therefore, be trained to identify, prevent, and protect against all potential hazards at the workplace.
The OSHA 10 and 30 Hour Training Program offered by 360Training.com is designed to help keep workers safe. The course will help you:
- Understand OSHA standards and requirements
- Identify hazardous conditions and practices
- Understand the types, need, and use of different PPE
- Identify critical health and safety hazards
- Implement preventative and protective measures
The course can be taken and completed online, at your own pace and schedule. You will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course which you can download and print.