Last updated on February 25th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
This article aims to highlight the safety hazards that may be associated with arc welding. Proving a simple guide to ensure safe practice when welding and prevent any accidents in the process. Arc welding machines come in different models, process, sizes, therefore, it is important to first read the manufacturer’s recommendations and carefully follow them.
Read the Operating Manual
First, start by reading the operating manual of your welding machine. This article is not a substitute for the manufacturer’s recommendations. Reading the user manual and all the warning labels will provide important safety information and also has the potential to maximize the ability of the machine itself. Make sure everyone who operates the welding machine have went through the content of the manual.
Wear the Proper Gear
Arc welding process produces three main electromagnetic radiation types of different wavelengths. These wavelengths are; visible light, ultraviolet (UV), and infrared (IR). These types of radiations are generated once an arc is ignited. And, as the welding current increase, the amount of emitted radiations also increase.
Exposure to arc radiation cases burns to the skin and eyes. While these burns may not become apparent until the next day, they can be simply avoided by wearing the proper safety gear. Even a small quick weld requires the appropriate protective clothing which include a welding helmet, protective clothing, and gloves.
Proper protective clothing should be made of flame-resistant materials, such as a cotton shirt, denim pants, and a leather welding jacket. Welding jackets are now available in cool lightweight designs made from flame resistant materials. Giving the welder the needed ease of movement and the required protection.
Protect the Face
The light generated by arc welding machines during the welding process is extremely bright. It takes only a second of exposure for uncovered eyes to experience an arc flash which can cause burns in the eyes and skin. While these burns may not become apparent until hours later, they can be avoided by wearing a welding helmet.
A helmet fitted with the proper lens shade to protect the eyes and face when welding is required. In addition, it is also recommended to wear safety glasses and ear protection under the welding helmet. Not to mention, to protect other people from the light with a helmet as well as a welding screen. Welding screens or barriers allows you to make a border around yourself to protect others from the arc.
Lenses have codes according to their shade number. These numbers specify the amount of light allowed to pass through the lens. The shade number is selected according to the welding process and current level. While each application and the associated current level requires different darkness levels. It should be an enough level of darkness that allows protection and at the same time allows the welder to see the work at hand.
An auto darkening welding helmet is the way to go in this case. While manual masks are the oldest way, but they are not practical. While auto darkening welding hoods offer the needed protection with automatic arc sensors and variable shade lenses. Allowing the welder to use the same helmet in welding, cutting, and grinding. There is also a wide variety of graphics and custom designs of welding helmets available. Check our list of the best rated welding helmets.
Protect the Hands
The electrode holder, electrodes, and many other parts in the welding process can be really hot and can cause burns to the skin if accidentally touched with bare hands. Not to mention, the molten metal spattering off of the workpiece and UV light produced during the welding process. For this reason, wearing an appropriate welding gloves is very important to protect your hands while welding. Welding gloves are not available in different designs suitable for different welding processes.
Get the Right Shoes
Hot molten metal often splatter straight down on the top of the welder’s shoes. Any industrial safety boot with some electrical grounding properties are good for welding. Leather boots or shoes will also provide good protection. Do not wear synthetic or open toed shoes. Pants legs should also go over the shoes where there be no bare skin.
Protect the Ears
Some noises are automatically generated during arc welding processes. However, some welding processes are noisier than others. For example, pulsed MIG and synergic MIG welding machines are noisier than TIG welding machines. As a result, wearing an ear plug to prevent any harmful loud noises is advisable. Long term exposure to noises can lead to eardrum damage.
Welding fumes and gases generated during arc welding are unavoidable. The welder should be aware of the potential hazards accompanied by the fumes and gases associated in the welding process.
Particulate fumes are generated from the evaporation of the welding consumables during the welding processes. For example, some tungsten electrodes used in TIG welding have a thorium oxide coating. Thorium is slightly radioactive, which means inhaling or swallowing it is hazardous.
Compressed gases used in shielding are also hazardous. For example, gases used in MIG welding are 100% inert, 100% active, or a mixture of both. Whatever their composition, exposure to these fumes may result in eye, nose, and throat irritation. Inert gases are not toxic, but does not support life. While all types of welding fumes may present a health risk, some present a greater risk than others. Exposure to toxic fumes for a long time may result in severe health risk and can lead to suffocation. As a result, only use the correct regulator for the gas with the proper pressure and never modify a regulator for use with another product.
To limit exposure to these fumes and gases, ensure there is adequate ventilation and clean air available. Make sure that you work in an open space or a well ventilated area to avoid any health risks. Fans to keep the fumes away from the welder’s face and proper ventilation exhaust system is needed for proper air circulation.
In addition, wearing some type of respiratory exhaust gear is also advisable. Specifically, some materials and applications require respirators when welding, so checking your application and requirements are crucial to get the proper protection.
Beware of Fire
Molten metal can splatter everywhere when welding. For example, any paper, plastic bag, greasy cloth, or flammable chemicals in the area can easily catch fire from the molten spatter. All your focus will be on the weld and it can be hard to see if anything catches fire. It’s crucial to maintain a tidy area for welding and make sure there is no flammable objects around you.
Further, make sure your clothes is free of grease or oil and your pockets do not contain anything flammable such as matches or a lighter. In addition, you should allow all traces of any solvents used to clean components prior to welding to disappear from the surfaces to avoid any fire or explosion hazard. Always maintain a clean workspace free of potential fire risks. As a result, it is also very important to keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire.
Avoid Electrical Accidents
In arc welding, electrical accidents is one of the most serious risks faced by a welder. Most electric shocks happen due to some kind of carelessness or due to damaged equipment. Electric shock can kill, as a result, only a qualified personnel should install and test the welding equipment prior operating to ensure everything is safe and working correctly.
Never remove any component from the welding set or touch any lead with the power supply still on. Always ensure there is no blown fuse or wires. Keep the welding gun or torch in a safe place when temporary not in use and make sure the switch cannot be accidentally activated. Also, welding in wet or humid conditions is not safe. Make sure your welding area, equipment, and cables are all dry at all times.
Avoid the risk of an electric shock by using well insulated electrode holders and cables. Wear clean protective clothing, dry welding gloves, and appropriate safety shoes. Insulate the ground under your standing area with a rubber mat or dry wood. Equip your welding machine with a power disconnect switch that can be easily turned off in case of emergency.
Maintain a tidy work environment and make sure everything is in its place. Your welding area only contains the equipment and tools that you will use. And clear the area from any unused objects such as cables or gas cylinders.
Installation of the welding equipment should take place only by a qualified personnel. The welder should also check all cables, electrodes, and clamps for any defects. Properly connect the welding clamp to the workpiece prior working. In addition, regular maintenance and safety audit on your welding equipment is advisable. Not to mention, the proper safety gear such as flame-resistant clothing, leather aprons, sleeves, gloves, goggles, helmet, safety shoes, etc. Ensuring your clothes is clean, dry, and free of oil or grease. In a tidy work environment with a fire extinguisher nearby and qualified staff that can help in case of emergency.