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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 500,000 welding-related injuries every year. That means saying welding accidents are common is an understatement. It’s also worth noting that these accidents don’t just cause injuries. They also cause damage to equipment or work pieces. That’s why observing welding precautions is not only about your safety but also about avoiding unwanted costs. More importantly, avoiding mistakes in welding ensures your weld will not break or fail and cause damage to property and endanger lives.
Don’t Start Working Without Sufficient Preparation
Whatever you’re working on, poor preparation is a way to sabotage your job. It creates all sorts of problems from quality issues to fatal accidents. There are a number of ways you can botch preparation, but a common issue is not getting the metal ready. That means the material or workpiece isn’t primed for welding.
Good preparation also means you have to grind or gouge out cracks on the welt metal. These tiny cracks are usually too small for you to see, but they compromise the integrity of the material you’re working on.
Although some metals don’t need much cleaning, most materials do. Cleaning the material is an essential part of your preparation to ensure it is primed for welding. Aluminum, for instance, needs thorough cleaning. When cleaning metals, you should remove paint, dirt, rust, and grease from their surfaces. Depending on the type of contaminant present, you may need to use sandpaper, wire brush, angle grinder, or chemicals to prepare the metal for welding.
Don’t Ignore Safety Precautions
Accidents at work shouldn’t necessarily be inevitable, especially when safety measures are in place. Welding accidents have led to loss of vision, hearing, or fingers. Eye injuries and burns are pretty common. If you want to avoid any of these unfortunate events, you need to wear the following safety gear:
- Protective glasses – Your eyes are vulnerable to welding arc spatter as well as metal splinters. An eye injury may render you out of commission for some period of time.
- Welding helmet – Your eyes are exposed to strong UV and infrared radiation from the welding arc. Radiation can damage your cornea and, in worse cases, your retina. That can lead to permanent visual impairment or even complete blindness. A welding helmet significantly reduces the amount of heat and light reaching your eyes.
- Earmuffs – Welding exposes you to loud noise that will damage your hearing little by little. Hearing protection prevents sensorineural hearing loss in the future.
- Safety boots – Your feet are susceptible to falling debris, sharp objects, and electric currents during welding.
Don’t Forget to Check Your Equipment
If you’re using new equipment, be familiar with it before using it. Welding equipment has changed over the years as a result of technological developments, so it makes sense to understand how your new machine works.
If you’re using the same old welding gun, it’s wise to inspect it from time to time. See for signs of leaks or frayed wiring.
Don’t Work in Areas Without Proper Ventilation
Welding produces noxious fumes. If you’re working in enclosed spaces without ventilation, these fumes can accumulate and suffocate you. Ideally, you should be working in an open area, where there’s little to no risk of the fumes building up to dangerous levels.
Don’t Forget to Check Your Work Area
There are different reasons why you should check your work area beforehand. Perhaps the most important is to make sure your work space is clear of any hazardous materials. It’s easy to disregard a flammable solvent sitting near your welding area when you’re busy, and that can be a terrible mistake.
Don’t Keep Your Equipment Turned on After Work
Most of the reminders here are for beginners, but experienced welders can get too complacent and careless. One of the indications that you’re probably getting a little too carefree is you’re keeping equipment plugged in and turned on even when you’re away. You probably just want to start working as soon as you get back, but such practice raises risk of fire and explosion.
Don’t Keep Waste Items Lying Around
Once you’re done, you should dispose of unwanted stuff and waste materials. Keeping them around turns them into potential hazards. You may slip on them. They may catch fire. They may emit flammable or toxic fumes. You should have designated waste receptacles.
Don’t Expose Filler Metals to Contaminants
A lot of welders keep filler metals in dank, dirty corners, effectively exposing them to smut, grease, and moisture. These contaminants significantly affect welding efficiency and quality. Store filler materials in clean and dry spaces. If possible, put them in temperature-controlled storage. Also, wire coils and spools on the wire feeder should stay covered in a plastic bag. Otherwise, consider removing them and storing them, instead of keeping them on the feeder for a long time. That way, you’re sure the coils and spools are away from contaminants.
Welding mistakes can reduce the quality of your weld and may cause it to fail. Worse, they result in accidents and injuries that have serious consequences. Taking necessary precautions before, during, and after welding reduces chances of mishaps and ensures the quality of your work.
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