Welding has safety practices and equipment which are applicable universally and actually, it is a matter of common sense, for example, covering your body. Welding subjects everyone, whether you are a beginner or experienced welder to similar hazards which is why it is important for you to familiarize yourself with ways of improving welding safety for you and others in the welding environment.
The guideline below will take you through common welding hazards and the best safety practices from clothing, to ensuring that you have a safe working environment so as to improve productivity.
The most common welding hazards that every beginner should be aware of include:
The most common and immediate risk facing any welder is an electric shock. The shock can lead to serious injuries or even death. Electric shocks can occur in several ways one of them been when a welder come in to contact with two metallic objects that have voltage between them hence the operator become part of the electric circuit. By this we mean if the operator holds two bare wires with bare hands, electrical current will be transmitted from one wire to another via the operator resulting into an electrical shock. The level of injury will depend on the amount of voltage and the higher the voltage the higher the risk of the shock resulting into serious injuries or death.
There is also a secondary voltage shock which results from an arch welding circuit. It ranges from anywhere between 20 volts and 100 volts which is more than enough to cause severe injuries or death.
Fire and explosions
Welding arc heat to very high temperatures which can easily result into accidental fires and explosions if the safety precautions are not adhered to. The hazard present itself inform of spatter and sparks produced by the arc. The arc can heat up to 10000 degrees celsius which is high enough to cause an explosion several feet away from the welding arc.
Gas cylinders are a big safety hazards especially with the emission of spatters and sparks. Accidental knocks may make the valve pop off and at that point, an explosion will be inevitable.
Fumes and gases
Welding emits fumes which can pose a potential hazard to you or anyone else within the vicinity. This is a matter of concern especially when you are welding in a confined area with your favorite welder where the fumes can build up. Hexavalent Chromium is a gas produced during welding and it is very dangerous and overexposure to this gas and other harmful compounds from metals and coatings can pose a huge risk to your health.
Lack of enough PPE
Lack of proper welding gear that is personal protective equipment (PPE) increases the chances of the operator of facing common risks such as burns as a result of exposure to rays from the arch. The correct PPE ensures free movement on top of providing protection from welding risks.
Experts from The Drill press mechanic suggested to Choose leathered and flame resistant gear for durability and protection from the common risk of burns. This is because other materials such as nylon or polyester will melt when exposed to extra heat.
Other safety considerations
A welder should be aware of other potential hazards such as working in tight areas or elevated areas and such extra precautions should be taken while working in such places.
Lets learn about safety measures and precautions now.
i. What to wear when welding?
As we mentioned earlier, welding emits rays and produces sparks that can easily cause injuries to you if your body is not well covered. Below are some recommendations of what to wear when welding.
Wear welding helmets
Occasional exposure to arc radiation can cause massive damage to your eyes which is why it is important for you to wear the correct eye protection, whether you are doing the welding or you are in proximity to a welding site. The helmets come in two types:
i. Fixed Shade Helmets
These helmets come in fixed shades depending on the welding at hand. These helmets are graded to suit different amperage and as such, you should make sure that you choose the right shade as it will only offer the designated eye protection regardless of the amount of light emitted from the arc.
ii. Auto-Darkening Helmets
Auto-darkening helmets as the word suggests responds to the nature of the arc which means that the shade will vary depending on the nature of welding being performed. These helmets come in handy when you are welding on different materials with different parameters. These helmets are the most recommended ones due to their versatility nature.
Wear safety glasses
Ensure that you wear the safety glasses beneath the welding helmets to offer maximum protection to your eyes and they should meet ANSI Z87 standards. You can also wear them alone if you only want to protect your eyes from dust or other debris or if you are working in tight places.
Make sure that you wear the proper heat resistant gloves before you do any weld. The gloves come in different forms to fit different processes. In case of stick welding that requires high temperatures; you will require heavy duty gloves to withstand the extra heat. For MIG (metal inert gas) welding, some medium grade gloves will do a great job while for TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding, some thin, leathered gloves will ensure that you are fully protected.
Welding caps protect your head from fiery welding sparks, and they are often worn under a helmet. Besides, the caps provide some form of cushioning on your head and protect you from the boiling heat. In addition, some welding caps are designed to keep fireballs out of your neck and ears. You can also use a simple bandana to ensure that your head is properly protected from welding hazards.
Welding jacket and pants
Your skin and your entire body should be protected from the arc at any given time. You should never do any weld while wearing shorts or short-sleeved shirts but rather you should wear flame-resistant clothes. Welding jacket are readily accessible and you can pair them with some denim pants. You can also wear an apron but it has to be flame resistant. Make sure that the jacket is lightweight for easy movements.
Protect your feet by wearing a good pair of leather shoes or high top boots. Rubber shoes can also be a good option. The pants should be tucked inside the shoes for safety purposes. You can also choose the steel toe capped boots if you want to give your toes extra protection.
ii. Safe Welding Environment
With the emission of fumes and gases, it is important that keep away from the fumes by ensuring that the room is well ventilated by installing an exhaust hood and a fan in the room or other fume extractors depending on the type of metal or rod in use.The exposure limit should be established in order to determine if the welder should put on a respirator. The limits specify the amount of substance that the welder should be exposed to in any particular day/welding session. Unless the exposure is below the limit, the welder should always wear the approved respirator and seek medical attention if it develop any complications.
Preventing fires and explosions
Before you start working, inspect the area thoroughly to ensure that it is free from any flammable material such as flammable liquids, papers, and gases such as hydrogen and propane.
The fume control system can be set with a fire safety solution to prevent and suppress fire within the system.
For the gas cylinders, always ensure that they are secured in an upright position and you should be careful when moving the cylinders from one place to another by ensuring that they are securely capped.
Most importantly,familiarize yourself with the fire extinguishers and fire alarms and ensure that the extinguishers are full at any given time. You should also have access to other means of combating fire such as sand buckets and fire hoses. You should also know the nearest fire exit and fire assembly.
Preventing electrical shocks
To prevent the deadly electrical shock, the welder should always wear dry gloves whenever they want to touch an electrode holder. At no particular time should you bare skin come into contact with any part of the electrode holder, neither should you never use a wet cloth while welding. As such, even if it is just some puddles of water, make sure that it is dried before you start working. Also make sure that the welding machine is dry including other important components such as the main box, the pedals, the torch, and the plug. The welder should also be properly insulated from the either from the working ground or the material that is being welded.
In addition, the welder should check any damages to the electrode holder and ensure that it is in good condition and that it is well insulated before any welding.
Deal with the clutter
Lose the clutter and try as much as possible to keep the working area free from unnecessary distractions. This will minimize the number of accidents as well as freeing some working space which will increase your working speed and productivity. Keep the area free from flammable materials such as papers and clothes that may be lying there aimlessly.
In addition to all above…
Make sure that you are familiar with the content of the welder’s operating manual as provided by the manufacturer. The manual contains comprehensive safety information among other important information meant to increase the machine’s effectiveness. That said, this article should only be used as a guide but it should not replace the operating manual provided by specific manufacturer.