Welding exposes everyone to similar levels of risk whether it is do-it-yourself task or a multi-billion dollar engineering job. Safety concerns in a welding site include electric shocks, burns, infrared and ultraviolet light, dangerous chemical emissions and flying metal chips.
Safety practices are paramount, and some are mandatory by law as outlined by the US Department of Labor through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Here are four lines of defense to keep everyone in your site safe when performing any welding job.
Read American Welding Society's Welding Handbook before you commence any welding project. It contains information on how to handle different metals such steel, iron, copper and aluminum. It also outlines safety measures such as how to prevent accidents, protect yourself, your team and everyone on the site, and what to do in the event of an accident.
Ensure that all machine operators and every person involved in the technical aspects of your welding project also read and understand the handbook. Brief everyone who works in or around the site on all the relevant safety procedures.
2. Engineering Controls
Engineering controls are adjustments you make to your equipment, space and processes to maximize safety. You have to assess your specific safety needs then make changes to meet those needs.
These changes include increasing ventilation areas to minimize the levels of fumes a technician is exposed to and relocating your welding operations to a more regulated area. It could also mean substituting your machinery and procedures to adopt those that emit less toxic chemicals and fumes.
Another control initiative is installing sensors that monitor the levels of toxic fumes and temperatures in a room, especially if your operations are in an enclosed space. It's also important to adhere to safe work practices, such as regular inspection and maintenance of your equipment. Modern technology allows for more sophisticated measures such as stopping the fumes at the source before they reach the technician by using extraction equipment.
3. Administrative Controls
Administrative controls enable you to implement safe work practices. It is essential that everyone in your welding site knows what their role is, as well their operational boundaries.
Ensure proper housekeeping to minimize tripping or injuries by metal chips lying around on surfaces. Inspect your location to identify necessary precautions, and consult with other people that use the space to ensure you are not endangering anyone's safety or health.
Schedule operations and tasks in a way that minimizes the number of individuals exposed. For example, welding outside on a windy day increases the risk of fire. Doing it in a crowded office on a work day increases the number of people you are exposing to chemicals and the chances someone being hit by a metal chip. Welding in explosive atmospheres, like petroleum tankers, is calling for a disaster.
4. Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective gear is one of the most important lines of defense in welding. These include insulated gloves, helmets, ear protection, safety boots, respirators, hand shields, welding goggles, a heat-resistant jacket and proper clothing. You cannot, for example, wear a short-sleeved shirt or shorts in a welding cell.
Consult an expert to understand the different classes of protective gear and which applies to your project to avoid overspending. For example, arc welding and carbon arc cutting require full-face protection, whereas you can use filter lenses and goggles in a place of a helmet for gas cutting or brazing.
Remember to remove rings and other jewelry or any clothing made from synthetic materials when welding. Jewelry can overheat, and synthetic fabric can melt and cause skin burns.
Welding can be a dangerous undertaking, and it calls for the utmost caution. It is safer to hire an expert or work with one to avoid unfavorable outcomes. It is also wise to only work with licensed and insured experts such as the technicians at Wilson's Welding Services, Inc. to minimize risks.