How to complete any welding project safely.
Welding can prove to be a highly dangerous occupation, particularly if safety measures are ignored. Welders face a range of potential hazards which can cause severe injuries, and even death. If the right precautions are taken, however, such accidents can be avoided, and welding can be done safely.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists [ACGIH] provide safety guidelines which help mitigate the risks of welding hazards.
The Hazards, and How to Avoid Them
Potentially the most immediate and serious of risks faced by welders.
- Electric shocks can cause severe injuries or death from:
The shock itself | A fall caused by the shock
- They are caused when two metal objects with a voltage between them come into contact with each other.
- Secondary voltage shock from arc welding circuits is the most common type.
To avoid electric shocks, welders should:
- Wear dry gloves
- Avoid touching the electrode with skin or wet clothing
- Insulate themselves from both the work and the ground with dry insulation
Fumes and Gases
Welding fumes contain complex metal oxide compounds and other potentially toxic substances.
- Prolonged exposure to welding fumes and gases can cause a number of health problems, including:
Lung Cancer | Parkinson’s disease | Hearing Loss | Stomach Ulcers | Skin Diseases
- Both OSHA and ACGIH define allowed limits for potentially hazardous substances in welding fumes.
To avoid health problems, welders should:
- Ensure proper ventilation and exhaust systems are in place
- Wear approved respirators
- Clean base metals before they begin to weld
Fire and Explosions
The risk of fires and explosions is inevitable due to the intense heat, sparks, and spatter created by welding arcs.
- A welding arc can reach temperatures up to 10,ooo degrees Fahrenheit.
- The resulting spatter can reach as far as 35 feet away from the welding space.
To prevent fires and to stay safe, welders should:
- Remove flammable materials from the work area
- Use fire resistant materials to cover flammable materials if they can’t be moved
- Always be aware of where the fire alarms and extinguishers are located
Welders also need to be aware of unique potential hazards within their work environment, such as when working in confined spaces or in an elevated area.