Guide to Welding Safety
Safety is of paramount consideration for any welding project, so it is important to know what kind of precautions you need to take before starting on a DIY or professional project. The array of hazards that welders can produce can be dangerous for your health, as they include fumes and gases, fire, electric shock, explosions, and more.
Reading and understanding the instructions provided by the manufacturer, dressing properly, wearing the correct gear, and making sure you can always breathe freely are some of the most important things to consider when it comes welding safety. Below you will find 10 important aspects to take care of before you get on with your welding project.
Read and Understand the Instructions
Even though it seems like an obvious piece of advice, it is essential to read the welders operating manual before starting a project, as it contains important safety information. Whether you are using a welding machine for the first time or you have used other kinds of welders in the past, it is always essential to read the manual of any new machine you intend to use. If you have purchased a second-hand welder that does not have a manual of instructions, you can contact the manufacturer for a replacement or look for the manual online.
If you are following a certain plan for metalwork projects, be sure you take into account all the instructions and the safety instructions provided in the blueprint. Some projects may require extra safety instructions, so be sure you are following them to the letter.
Check the Area
Before conducting any welding outside of a professionally designated welding area, you need to inspect the place and identify all the safety precautions that you need to take. You need to be careful about any object that can cause electric shock, and also needs to remove any objects that may catch on fire from the welding area.
There are some checks that a welder needs to conduct on a daily basis. These include ensuring the work area is properly ventilated before starting working. If you are not welding in a naturally-ventilated area, you need to make sure there is a functioning mechanical ventilation system available at all times. You also need to check whether the welding area you intend to use has been recently exposed to flammable chemicals and remove all potential residue before starting working.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Any welding job requires wearing proper safety equipment. From a welding helmet to welding safety glasses and gloves, there are multiple things you need to purchase before tackling welding. Before purchasing the equipment, you need to make sure that the safety equipment you are considering is the best for your line of work.
You should never wear shorts or short-sleeved T-shirts when welding, no matter if it's only just a small job. Even the quickest weld requires the proper safety gear, which includes clothing, gloves, and a welding helmet.
When it comes to clothing, it is not necessary to wear specific welding equipment of industrial grade, but you need to make sure that you wear only clothing that is flame resistant, such as denim pants and shirts made from materials that are tightly woven. If you weld on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a welding jacket that provides enhanced protection.
Many welders think that wearing gloves can hinder them from getting the desired results, but this is not the case. It is true that not all pairs of gloves can offer you the best results, but it is essential to have your hands protected at all times. You can opt for a pair of ergonomic gloves with curved fingers and a design that works perfect for the welding process. You need to wear gloves that are specifically made for welding because they can protect you from the action of flames and debris.
You should not forget about shoes, but the good news is that any pair of boots or high-top leather shoes would do. Just make sure your pants legs go over the shows at any time. Never wear cloth or tennis shoes when welding because this may result in smouldering. It goes without saying that you should never attempt welding barefoot or wearing any kind of footwear such as flip flops.
Invest in a Good Welding Helmet
Even a moment of exposure to the rays of the welding arc may result in an eye condition called arc flash, a very painful experience that may appear suddenly or hours after the exposure. For this reason, you should always wear a welding helmet even if it is only for a couple of seconds of welding.
In order to provide you with the required level of safety, your welding helmet needs to be fitted with a proper filter shade that will protect your eyes and face when welding. You should also wear a welding helmet if you are simply watching another person welding. Make sure you pick a shade lens that is appropriate for the specific type of welding you intend to perform.
The best type of helmet you can choose for professional or amateur welding jobs is an auto darkening helmet. With this type of helmet, you can get a darkening lens in a fraction of a second, which means your eyes are always protecting data from the welding arc.
An industrial grade helmet for welding reacts at speeds of 1/10,000 or 1 /20,000 of a second and you can adjust the shade setting to suit your welding requirements. A good industrial grade helmet also comes with delay controls that allow you to control just for how long the lens remains dark after the welding arc stops, or they may have adjustable sensitivity that comes in handy for low amperage welding.
When you shop for welding helmets, make sure the item you purchase meets the current safety standards in the industry. By doing so, you can be sure your helmet has survived velocity impact tests from flying objects and can provide you with 100 percent ultraviolet protection. Helmets that meet the current safety standards are also tested at high temperatures, so you can be sure you are protected against the action of extreme temperatures.
Pay Attention to Fumes and Gases
Overexposure to welding fumes and gases is a potential hazard for your health, and this comes as no surprise given the fact that welding fumes contains complex metal oxide compounds resulted from base metal, consumables, and the base metal coatings. It is thus essential to keep your head out of the fumes by using enough ventilation in the room where the welding takes place and control the exposure to substances in the fumes. This would depend on the type of base metal and rod's you use for welding.
Beware of Fires and Explosions
As the welding arc creates very high temperatures, it is possible for it to pose a significant explosion and fire hazard if you do not follow safe practices. Even if you may think that the welding arc is the real danger because it may reach temperatures of up to 3,000°C, the real danger actually comes from the intense heat near the arc as well as the sparks, spatter, and heat created by the arc. As this can reach up to 35 feet away from the actual space where the welding takes place, it is important to respect the work area for any flammable materials and remove them all before starting. Examples of flammable materials include gasoline, paint, oil, as well as solid substances such as wood, paper, and cardboard. You should also make sure that no gas substances such as propane, hydrogen, and acetylene are present in the welding area.
Be Sure Breathing is Unobstructed
Welding fumes are often difficult to avoid, particularly in industrial environments, and for this reason it is important to take measures that improve the air quality for workers. Some of the illnesses that are associated with welding fumes on a long-term include heart disease, lung cancer, stomach diseases, kidney damage, neurological and motor problems. In order to avoid developing any of these conditions, you need to take action to protect yourself against fumes, especially if you weld on a regular basis.
Some of the options that you have when it comes to improving the air quality in a welding environment include portable fume extractors that can be easily wheeled in the area where you are working, ceiling ventilation that works in a similar way but by using air stock systems mounted on the ceiling, or personal respirators for those who want an individual approach to clear breathing.
Take Care of Possible Electric Shocks
Electric shocks happen when you touch to metal objects that happen to have a voltage between them. As welding requires the use of metal pieces very close to one another, it is essential to reduce the risk of shock. It is important to wear hole free gloves designed especially for welding, mainly when you change electrodes. Make sure you remove all stub ends immediately after welding. Moreover, remember to turn the power off at the end of each shift, or even when you decide to take a break.
Cover the parts of the work piece that may get in contact with the welder with items such as leather aprons, leather jackets, leather covered cushions, and heat-resisting blankets. The risk of electric shock is always higher in hot conditions, mostly because your clothing may be soaked in perspiration. The risk is enhanced by the proximity of tanks or vessels. To minimize the risk of electric shock in humid environments, make sure you take frequent rest periods, dry your clothing and equipment, and ventilate the space, via air-conditioning if possible. This will not only help dry perspiration, but it will also cool your body and make the job more comfortable.
Take Some Final Safety Steps After Welding
Even though you may feel tired after a long welding session, it is essential to take some extra safety steps to be sure all potential hazards are eliminated before calling it a day. First, make sure all your equipment is turned off. Even if you plan on returning the next day for more welding, store the equipment correctly and be sure it is not accessible to children. Also, double check whether the gas cylinder valves are fully closed, as failing to do so may increase the risk of explosions, fires, and other accidents.
If there are any electrode butts or scraps from your welding project lying around after you have finished welding, dispose of them properly. Waste items are potentially hazardous because they may emit toxic fumes. Even if they are no longer hot, scraps may increase the likelihood of someone having an accident by slipping on them.
Finally, be extra vigilant of embers, smouldering and sparks for a while after you turned off your equipment, as there is still a chance for errant sparks to land on a flammable object and ignite it.
Other Welding Safety Considerations
Besides the down points above, welders should also be aware of some extra safety considerations. For example, if you work in a confined space or an area that is elevated from the ground, you will need to take extra precautions. No matter the welding situation, you need to pay close attention to safety information provided on the manuals and products being used as well as reference the safety data sheets provided by the manufacturer. If you have any co-workers, it is always a good idea to make sure that they are aware of all the safety requirements before starting welding.
As a rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to be extra vigilant at your worksite at all times because this is the best way to spot a danger and take immediate action. By following the safe practices above and using good common sense on as per needed basis, welders can stay safe and get productive without any accidents at all.