Exploring Welding Safety Hazards
It is not surprising to many that welding is a job with a lot hazards associated with it. To make matters worse, the hazards associated with welding are often more severe than many others in the workplace, which means they need to be taken especially seriously.
Addressing these welding safety hazards is an important part of any overall safety program within a facility. The first step in any type of safety improvement is going to be to identify the specific risks and then come up with how they can be minimized or eliminated. Look at the following five important areas things that you need to know about welding safety hazards.
5 Welding Safety Hazards that You Should Know
1. Hazards from Fumes
One of the most important hazards associated with welding is actually the fumes that are often present in the area. When welding different materials, fumes will be released into the air. Depending on the specific metal that is used, these fumes may be toxic or otherwise harmful.
In some cases, the fumes can cause immediate reactions that can be very serious and even life threatening. In others, the welder may not even notice a problem, but over years of exposure it can cause cancer or other problems.
Whatever the case, it is important for the facility to provide the right type of protection. In some cases, a simple breathing mask is sufficient. In others, you’ll need to have a dedicated air supply to ensure the operator is only breathing in clean air. Whatever is needed, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the right type of personal protection equipment is available for use at all times.
Another way to reduce this welding safety hazard is to install a ventilation system in the welding area that can quickly pull the fumes away so that the welders are not put at risk. Of course, you will need to make sure the system filters out the fumes before venting if it is required by the EPA or other regulatory agencies.
2. Protecting Guests in Welding Areas
One of the biggest risks associated with welding is if someone walks into an area where welding is being performed. The extremely bright light that is emitted from the torch can cause severe eye problems almost instantly.
In addition, the distraction of someone walking in can cause the welder to move or look away from his work. When this happens they can damage the piece they are working on, or worse, expose themselves to a potentially serious injury.
With these types of welding safety hazards in mind, it is important to make sure you take precautations to alert people to the fact that welding is taking place in a given area. There are many ways to do this in most facilities. If the welding is occurring in one specific room, for example, you can use your industrial label printer (which you can purchase here) to create a sign for the door that alerts people to the risk.
If the area where welding takes place is more out in the open, you can use floor marking tape (similar to this) to alert people to the risk. Placing orange floor marking tape, for example, can be an easy way to identify this risk. Of course, you can use any color or pattern on the tape that you would like. The key thing is to ensure that everyone in the facility is aware of what it means.
3. Electrical Shock is a Major Risk
When looking for welding safety hazards, you don’t want to overlook the risk of electrical shock. In many cases, this is actually one of the most significant risks that welders face, even though they may not even realize it.
When welding metal objects, it is possible for them to become electrified. If the welder is touching them they can quickly get electrocuted. Another similar risk is when there are two or more metal objects with the welder in the middle. In some situations, the objects may have voltage going through them, and when the welder touches them they complete the circuit.
This can cause the electricity to flow through them, which can quickly cause some very severe injuries or even death. Even if the electrical current is very minor, it can cause the welder to get shocked and pull away. This jerking motion can cause them to fall or get burned by the welding tools.
4. Personal Protection Equipment Requirements
Welders need to have access to a variety of different types of personal protection equipment in order to minimize any welding safety hazards. This equipment needs to be on site and in a place that is easy to access for anyone who will be using the welding tools.
Depending on the type of welding that is taking place, you’ll need to have at least the following types of PPE:
- Welding Mask – Not surprisingly, a welding mask (such as this) is an essential piece of PPE for any welder. Most facilities will have each welder assigned their own mask to ensure it fits properly and they always have it when it is needed.
- Hand Protection – When welding in tight places you often have to have your hands fairly close to the hot welding equipment. Protecting them with the proper protective gloves is very important.
- Breathing Protection – As mentioned above, it may be necessary to have breathing protection when there are harmful fumes present. In some cases, the welding mask will have a breathing apparatus built right in.
- Hearing Protection – Welding machines can be quite noisy in some cases. In addition, moving the parts around that needed to be welded can create a lot of noise. Keeping the hearing of the employees safe is very important so make sure all employees have this type of PPE available at all times.
5. Safety Training is Essential
The final thing that needs to be addressed when it comes to reducing the risk of welding safety hazards is proper training. Whether you employ welders with years of experience, or they are just starting their career, they can always benefit from additional safety training.
Teaching them how to use all the personal protection equipment, for example, can help to avoid a variety of injuries. Keeping all welders up to date on how to use new equipment, and how to follow updated safety procedures is also going to help keep everyone safe.
As with just about all types of safety improvements, it will all come down to making sure everyone in the facility is properly trained. This training can be done in a one on one way with just the welder and their manager, or it can be done as a group. The important thing is that it is done so that everyone is on the same page for this important type of work.
Never Stop Improving Safety
Whether you own a facility, or you are the safety manager, you need to make sure you are constantly working to improve the overall safety of the area. When it comes to welding safety hazards, the above five items are an excellent place to start. Once you have them properly addressed, you can move on to identify other potential welding hazards and continue down a path toward a safer workplace.