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Welding is considered to be a very dangerous job. You and people that are in your vicinity are exposed to a whole array of safety hazards. It is extremely important that you have a good understanding of the risks that are present so that you can understand and implement effective precautions to minimise risk to yourself and to others.
It is stated by the United States Department of Labor that “Welding, cutting, and brazing are hazardous activities which pose a unique combination of both safety and health risks to over 500,000 workers in a wide variety of industries. The risk from fatal injuries alone is more than four deaths per thousand workers over a working lifetime.” This makes welding one of the most dangerous job in the workforce (1).
The best way to reduce your risk is to follow a routine every time that you weld. Here we will look at what we consider to be the 5 most important safety tips for welders.
Ensure Your Workplace is Safe and in Good Working Order
One of the easiest and fastest ways to keep yourself safe is to have a clean and safe work area. There a few main risks that come from a poorly maintained workspace, these include;
During the welding process a live electrical circuit is used to create the molten metal. This means that you are potentially at risk of an electric shock whilst working. This is particularly true for when working in damp areas or on metal structures.
Before you begin any work, make sure that your workspace is dry, check for any puddles on the floor or on your work bench. Dry and clean your machine including the plug, the pedal, the torch and the main box.
- Fire hazards
Due to the nature of welding, fire and burns are an ever-present risk, the heat and sparks produced form the welding process can easily set flammable materials on fire. It is important to reduce the risk of fires by making sure that you keep your work area free of any potentially flammable materials.
- Exposure to Fumes and Gases
Exposure to fumes and gases can be very dangerous. Illnesses that can be caused by welding fumes include throat and lung irritation, metal fume fever, cancer and pneumonia. This is why it is important your work area is well ventilated before you start your work. This may include making sure that any windows are open or if you have a ventilation system that it is turned on and in good operating order. You may need to combine a variety of ventilation strategies to ensure all airborne gases and particles are removed form your work area. A respirator can also be used to reduce this risk.
Always Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Wearing the appropriate safety gear is vital before you perform even the simplest of welds. Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, is an essential component of safe welding. Before starting any welding, you should have the following;
- Welding Helmet
A welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of protective equipment. It protects you from burns, debris and UV radiation. It is also recommended that a fire-resistant hood under the helmet. We recommend Auto-Darkening Helmets and have an article describing the benefits.
- Welding Shirt and Jackets
These shirts and jackets are designed to protect your upper body and are generally made from a fire-resistant material. It is important that they are long sleeved so that no skin is exposed. They do not have open cuffs or pockets as these can catch sparks. Makers of jackets and shirts now offer lightweight options, you can see our recommended shirts here.
- Welding Gloves
A good pair of insulated and flame-resistant gloves will give you the adequate protect whilst welding. The two types of gloves are Gauntlet cuff gloves and TIG welding gloves. Read here to learn more about these options.
Certain materials will require you to wear a respirator when you are welding. The best way to find this out is follow the manufacturers welding electrode’s data sheet. There are a wide range of respirators available on the market. We have a list of what we consider the best options when it comes to welding respirators.
- Ear Plugs
Ear protection is an important component of your safety as prolonged exposure can lead to industrial deafness. There are a wide range of inner-ear plugs available as well as fire-resistant ear muffs depending on your needs.
A good pair of safety boots is highly recommended for wearing in all welding workspaces. You should wear a pair that is rubber soled so that reduce any risk of electric shocks. We also recommend getting steel capped boots that are fire-resistant to protect yourself form falling objects and burns.
Check Your Equipment
Before you start any work, make it a routine to check your equipment. This should include your safety equipment such as your shirt and welding helmet. Pay specific attention to the condition of the welder itself. Things such as wiring and hoses can deteriorate over time. Do a full visual inspection of your machine before you start any welding.
Receive Appropriate Training
Before you start any work, it is important that you are familiar with the machine that you will be using as well as with any other specific knowledge that you will need to know for the particular workpiece that you are working on. This will include knowing the type of metal that you will be working on, the thickness of the material and the type of machine and consumables that are appropriate to the job.
Have an Emergency Plan in Place for if Something Does Go Wrong
Occasionally things can wrong with welding. So that you can deal with these situations appropriately it is a good idea to have emergency procedures already in place. You should have a fire extinguisher, fire alarm system and a working phone at hand. Alongside of your fire extinguisher, phone and alarm you should make sure that you have easily accessed fire exits that correctly marked.
In this article we have helped you to identify what we believe are the most 5 essential Safety Tips & Precautions for Welders. This will allow you to undertake the correct precautions before you start your work. We have also identified the correct Person Protection Equipment (PPE) that will allow to work safely and efficiently.