How do you protect yourself and your staff from harm while welding?
Welding is a high risk task and every precaution should be taken to work safely for yourself and everyone around you. Welding safely is easily done when the correct procedures are followed and all the protective measures taken.
Possible risks of welding include:
- Fire / burning
- inhalation of poisonous fumes
- Damage to eyesight
- Electric shock
- Tips for welding safely
Preparation before welding:
- Ensure the area is safe from water, loose wires, live cigarette butts,
- Make sure you have the correct equipment available
- If using a generator for power, ensure that the sparks and petrol can at no point come into contact.
For companies, industry and businesses, follow the correct procedures and safety guidelines set out by the company
Ensure there is someone on site who has adequate first aid training including what to do in the case of electric shock, burns, eyesight damage and other items relevant to the hazards around where the work will be carried out.
- Always better than cure!
- Avoid electric shock when welding – a voltage of 50 volts or less can be enough to cause death of the welder. With AC higher risk than DC.
- Gloves – need to be dry and specifically designed for welding. Welding gloves insulates the user against the shock by using non -conductive material
- An electric current shock means that the welder is unable to let go of the cable as the hand goes into spasms.
- Clothing – all clothing needs to be dry to prevent electric shock
- Welders need to ensure the welding equipment is in good condition before using it, with the holders undamaged and no contact allowed between the stick and electrical points inside.
- Damaged insulation needs to be replaced.
- Stick electrodes are always regarded as electrically active / hot with residual voltage even when welding equipment is off.
- Never touch the “electrically hot’ parts inside the welding case.
Yourself, your staff and the property around you from harm that could be potentially caused by welding.
Welding creates fumes which are a health hazard. All areas in which welding occurs should be well-ventilated. In smaller areas, this can be done with a fan, extraction fan. Be aware of the surroundings and how you are feeling, If your breathing in uncomfortable, the air is smoke clogged stop working and try and improve this before carrying on = open windows/doors to improve ventilation, ensure the welding equipment is working properly.
Seek medical help if breathing is difficult and/or there is irritation in the airway.
- Use face protection to prevent fumes entering your airway
- Eye protection – Welding visors are an essential part of welding PPE and prevent blindness.
- Visors cover the whole face, protecting you from sparks, and are designed to block the harsh sharp light created from the welding.
- Hand protection – welding gloves are non-conductive and protect against electricity, heat and sparks
- Clothes and aprons– used to protect clothing and body parts against flying sparks and burns.
- Safety glasses inside the face shield prevent sparks from flying onto your skin/eyes.
Welders flash / Arc eye (photokeratitis) –
- Swelling of eye in the eye
- Eye redness
- Discomfort/pain of the eye and possible temporary blindness.
- Watery eyes
IMPORTANT Regular photokeratitis can cause permanent blindness
Caused by exposure to string UV light, welding torches.
Treatment of welder’s flash
The area is treated as a burn wound, with cold water and medical attention.
The eyes need to be wrapped and protected from sunlight
Working in an environment with electric currents, possible metal shavings, sparks etc mean that safety shoes are an essential. Rubber soled and with a protective and strong upper layer, protective boots and protective boots can save your life, and possible the lives of those around you.
Leather boots are better than shoes as there is ankle coverage.
Welding creates an immense amount of heat on the welding surface as well as around the area. With heat comes the risk of fire. Prevent fires by removing hazardous/flammable items – petrol, paper, cardboard/boxes, flammable substances / liquids / gas.
- Keep fire extinguishers close by and know where they are located, as well as the exit points of the building.
- Wear fire resistant clothing especially when working on elevated areas, doing vertical welding or overhead welding. Protective clothing needs to cover the full body even when you are hot and include welding leathers.
- Pants – keep over the shoes to prevent sparks from going into the boots.
Treating a welding burn:
Put on cool /cold water over the area as soon as possible. Never use ice as this increases burn damage. If the skin is broken, do not put any ointments on, rather seek medical attention first as it is a higher infection risk.
Closed burn areas can be treated with burn-shield immediately and keep it on for the first 24 hours.
Other useful ointments are Aloe Vera gel and honey. Putting the ointment on a gauze or paraffin gauze such as jelonet, and then applying this to the area can stop the ointments from oozing out and keep them on the wound.
If a blister forms over the burn, do not pop these as there is valuable protein fluid which helps the area heal faster inside the blister.
Safety when welding at an elevated level
Welding at an elevated level or tricky area means that extra safety precautions are needed such as anchoring to a stable area.
Safety gear will then include harnesses, double or single lanyard depending on the area and task to be completed.