Arc Welding Hazards
Welding processes are ubiquitous in today’s workplaces – both industrial and construction. In this edition of the RMSC Safety Sentinel we will outline the major safety hazards associated with welding and discuss some important control concepts.
Along with grinding and cutting – any welding application should be applied within the confines of a formal hot work permitting process. Having an ignition source designed into the welder, in the presence of oxygenated air, workers must control the third leg of the fire triangle by removing all flammable materials. Failure to do so will result in a fire of some sort. Make sure welders have portable extinguishers, buckets of sand, etc.
Small amounts of molten metal commonly spray or splash out of welding zones. This hazard must be controlled using proper PPE or exposed skin will become burned. The ultraviolet light associated with welding is capable of producing a sun burn to exposed skin, so keep everything covered with leather (or flame resistant fabric) jacket, chaps, apron, and gloves.
The same ultraviolet light capable of sun burning an employee’s skin, is also capable of damaging an employee’s eyes by burning their cornea – which is the outer layer of the eye. This condition known as flash burn is quite distressing because it feels like having grains of sand in your eye. Welders have to protect themselves with proper welding hoods equipped with the proper shade for the welding application they are performing. Don’t stop with protecting the welder. Set up screens so that other workers who will occupy the same area are not exposed to flashing arcs. These employees don’t typically have welding hoods on.
Respiratory Exposure to Metal Fume
The toxic gases and metal fume associated with welding will vary widely according to the welding process, the base metal, the filler material, and any coating that could be on the object being welding, like a lead-based paint, for example. The best control for respiratory hazards is working in a well ventilated area or use of engineered ventilation systems – like draw-down tables, or vented work booths. If concentrations of toxic metals cannot be controlled use of respirators will become necessary.
Ergonomic and Human Factor Concerns
Welders, especially those involved in construction and facilities maintenance will often have to assume awkward work postures and remain static in these for prolonged periods. Working overhead, being required to crouch or even lay down are not uncommon. Use of large ceramic heat mats to warm the base metal prior to welding can elevate the temperature of a workspace making heat stress a concern. Any workers attempting these activities should be well-conditioned, hydrated, rested, and encouraged to take frequent breaks from the awkward work posture. Use of cooling vests, bandanas, etc. could become necessary.
RMSC has exercised due and customary care in producing this newsletter but has not independently verified information provided by others. No other warranty, express or implied, is made with regard to the content of this newsletter. Therefore, RMSC assumes no liability from any loss resulting from errors, omissions or misrepresentations made by others. The use of this information by third parties shall be at their own risk and RMSC accepts no duty of care to any such third party.Share This: