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When it comes to welding, personal safety is not a choice. As a welder, every decision you make should be guided by safety standards set in place by organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Safety is key to having a long and successful career in the welding industry. Here at Universal Technical Institute, we take extra precaution to ensure our welders-in-training are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to be safe in the lab and workplace.
Keep reading to learn all about welding safety, including hazards to avoid and important rules to follow.
Welding can be a dangerous occupation when safety guidelines are not followed. If safety measures are ignored, welders can face a variety of hazards, including exposure to harmful fumes and gases, electric shock, fire and explosions and more.
Would it be acceptable for a firefighter to go without his helmet, or a doctor to forego wearing gloves during a critical surgery? Of course not! In the same way, welders must follow a specific set of guidelines to protect themselves and those around them.
As welding presents many potential hazards, it’s crucial for welders to practice safety by taking the following steps:
Accidents happen, but many injuries can be avoided by having an understanding of what to do and what not to do when working in a welding environment. Before starting any project, welders must take the time to ensure they know how to execute the task safely above all else. It’s the most important thing they can do to protect themselves and those around them.
As mentioned, welders face a variety of potential hazards in the workplace. Some of the most common include:
A sudden discharge of electricity to the human body can lead to serious injuries and in some cases, even death. Electrocution can occur when a welder touches two metal objects that have a voltage between them, which inserts them into the electrical circuit. The higher the voltage, the higher the current, which leads to a higher risk for the welder.
Welding fumes contain a variety of potentially harmful metals, including aluminum, beryllium, arsenic, manganese and lead. Gases that contain nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, carbon monoxide and hydrogen fluoride are also often produced during welding.
When a welder is overexposed to these fumes and gases, this can lead to serious health problems such as impaired speech and movement, respiratory illness and even cancer.
Without wearing the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), welders can experience a variety of physical hazards, including eye damage, cuts, burns or even crushed fingers and toes. These injuries should be taken seriously, as they can put a welder out of work in some cases.
A welding arc produces extreme temperatures and can spark fire and explosion hazards if safety procedures are not followed. While the arc itself can reach temperatures up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the most common cause of fire is when sparks and spatter come in contact with flammable materials around the work area.
So how does one avoid these hazards? Here are 11 tips for practicing safe welding:
The most successful welders know safety procedures like the back of their hand. They take the time to educate themselves on safety guidelines set in place by both national organizations and the company they work for, which helps to ensure a safe, productive workspace for all.
It’s also important for welders to review manufacturer instructions before operating equipment. Welders should never assume they know how to use a piece of equipment before they’ve read and understood the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe operation.
Exposure to fumes and gases can be controlled by providing adequate ventilation in the work area. Some employers will provide a fan, an exhaust system or exhaust hoods to remove fumes and gases from the area welders are working in.
When necessary, welders should wear a respirator to protect themselves from breathing in harmful substances. If you ever feel as though your breathing is inhibited, express your concerns to a supervisor immediately.
Electric shock is one of the most important topics for welders to be educated in, as it can pose an immediate and serious risk.
To avoid electrocution, welders must always inspect the electrode holder for damage before starting their weld. They also must ensure their gloves are dry and in good condition, never touch the metal parts of the electrode holder with skin or wet clothing, and keep dry insulation between their body and the ground or metal being welded.
A good welder always checks to ensure their equipment is functioning properly and is fully grounded before using it. Even the most experienced welders should regularly check their equipment for common wear and tear, such as a frayed wires or leaking hoses, as this can increase the chances of an accident occurring.
If a piece of equipment was running perfectly the day before, don’t assume that it’s still in the same condition. Always do a full inspection before using it again—you can never be too sure!
A cluttered workspace is one of the most common causes of welding fires and explosions. Sparks from the welding arc can fly up to 35 feet in distance, so it’s important to keep your workspace clear, especially of any flammable materials.
As a general rule, always stay organized and keep everything in its place. Your workspace should only contain the tools and equipment you’re using for that specific project.
Before starting a weld, take inventory of your environment. Knowing where tools and equipment are located not only increases your efficiency, but it’s vital for your safety. For example, it’s important to know the location of fire alarms, emergency exits, fire extinguishers, sand buckets or other equipment you would need to put out flames in the event of a fire.
Wearing the proper attire is critical for welders. Any exposed skin is vulnerable to the harmful effects of infrared and ultraviolet rays, so welders must always ensure they are fully covered. Additionally, pant cuffs, pockets or any loose items of clothing can catch flying sparks, so it’s important to keep them secured.
So what should you wear? Welders must wear flame-resistant clothing with the proper PPE, which brings us to our next point.
Selecting the proper PPE for the job is one of the most important decisions you can make to protect yourself as a welder. Here’s a quick look at the types of PPE welders should wear:
Welding is a hands-on career that can lead to injuries without following the right precautions. In order to protect yourself, always practice safe lifting techniques and be sure to break up your day to stretch and allow your body to rest. This can help to avoid repetitive stress injuries, which some welders are prone to.
As a welder, it’s important to hold yourself and those around you accountable when it comes to following safety guidelines. If you see a safety violation, report it—it’s in the best interest for you and those you share a workspace with! Additionally, if you ever feel unsafe in your work area, don’t be afraid to speak up.
The welding industry is constantly changing and evolving due to technology. As manufacturers release new equipment and new techniques are adopted, it’s important to continuously educate yourself on best practices—for both your skill and safety!
When it comes to welding safety, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. There is always more to learn! This guide is designed to be a starting point, and it’s important to continuously seek out information from reliable sources in the industry.
To keep up with the most current safety practices, utilize the following resources:
UTI’s 36-week Welding Technology program can give you the hands-on training you need to become a successful welder in today’s world. To learn more, visit our program page and request information to speak with one of our admissions representatives today.
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