4 Welding Safety Hazards and How to Avoid Them

4 Welding Safety Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Welding work brings certain hazards, regardless of what safety protocols companies have in place. Minimizing these risks requires extensive training, skill, and expertise from employers and employees alike. When important safety measures are ignored, welders could face serious injuries and illnesses. Here is a look at some of the most common welding safety hazards and how to safeguard against these harmful threats.

1. Fires and Explosives

The welding arc generates extreme temperatures that pose significant fire and explosion hazards if proper safety precautions are not taken. Although welding arcs can reach temperatures as high as 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the real threat comes from the environment around the arc.

It is essential to maintain a workspace that is free of flammable materials, such as oil rags. Welders should never store butane lighters in their pockets and they should never introduce oxygen into the welding area. It’s also important to remember that the arc can create spatter and sparks that can fly up to 35 feet away from the welding space.

To prevent fires and explosions, always inspect the work area for threats before starting your work. Know where the fire alarms and extinguishers are and ensure that the extinguisher gauge is full. Ideally, welders should have a fire watcher nearby to keep track of sparks and ensure that there are no smoldering fires after the job is finished.

2. Electric Shock

Live electrical circuits are used to melt metals during arc welding. Electrocution is a serious risk that can occur when two metal objects that have voltage differences touch. Electric shock can result in serious injuries or even death.

Other common electrical hazards include improperly wired machines, improper personal protective equipment (PPE), high frequency, and removing the cover of the welder.

To avoid electric shock, welders should wear dry gloves and never touch the metal parts of the electrode holder or the electrode itself with skin or wet clothing. Welders should also inspect the electrode holder for damage before starting to weld.

3. Fumes and Gases

Exposure to welding fumes and gases can be hazardous to a person’s health if the proper safety precautions are not taken. Welding fumes contain dangerous complex metal oxide compound from base-metal coatings or consumables. Welding also exposes a person to invisible gases, such as ozone, chromium oxides, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide.

When working in welding environments, it’s important to keep your head out of the fume plume and to always wear approved respiratory devices. Use local exhaust and ventilation to remove harmful gases and continuously monitor contaminant levels to determine air quality. Welders should also read material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for electrodes to determine which fumes will be released.

4. Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are always present when welding, regardless of skill or experience. There is a serious risk of eye damage, cuts, burns, and crushed fingers, among other injuries. One of the best ways to reduce these types of risks is by always wearing PPE when performing welding work. The following PPE is appropriate for most welders:

  • Welding Helmets – Welders should wear welding helmets with side shields that protect against particles, UV radiation, and chemical burns.
  • Fire-Resistant Clothing – This helps reduce the risk of burns caused by heat, fire, or radiation.
  • Boots and Gloves – Ideally, welders should wear hard-toe rubber-soled boots and insulated flame-resistant gloves to protect against hazards like electric shock.
  • Respirators – Respirators help protect against dangerous fumes and gases.
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Competitive Choice, Inc. offers a wide selection of welding supplies and safety equipment designed to streamline the welding process and keep welders safe from common job hazards.