Welding can be very dangerous, there are numerous hazards to try and avoid and lots of ways to get hurt. The amount of risk depends on the type of welding you are doing, as some welding techniques involve more hazardous procedures and materials. It is a thrilling physical job which requires a high level of skill. Welding can produce fantastic results if done safely and correctly.
There are a few different things to be aware of before starting a welding job. You need to know what to protect yourself from. If you know the risks and take the right precautions you shouldn’t have any problems. Welding generates a lot of heat, bright light and dangerous fumes, it can also generate sparks and noise. Those are the immediate hazards, there can be long term damage to your health if you expose yourself to harmful chemicals.
Safety equipment is probably the most important factor. If you don’t wear the appropriate safety equipment you will put yourself and your colleagues at risk. There are some common mistakes that welders make that should be avoided at all costs. In order to keep yourself safe and protected in the working environment you need to minimise the risks. Here are five common welding mistakes to avoid.
1. Welding without a mask
Even if you are just doing a quick job, do not attempt to weld without a welding mask. You will inevitably suffer from arc eye (damage to the cornea caused by exposure to the very bright light). This is a very uncomfortable situation and feels like you have sand in your eye for hours. You don’t want any long term damage to your eyes so a mask is very important. Even though the mask protects you from the welding light and provides some face protection, you may need to supplement it with goggles to protect you from getting hot metal and other debris in your eyes while you are working. Don’t even think about welding without a mask, even if its only for a few minutes, the risk is still high.
2. Forgetting to wear welding gloves
Do not weld without wearing heavy duty welding gloves, as the risk of significant burns to your hands is very high without them. Make sure you protect your hands from any hazardous chemicals and sharp objects. You should practice so that you are able to work much more productively wearing gloves and they help to manipulate and control the equipment in a safe manner.
3. Exposing skin
Although -you might be tempted to weld in shorts and tee-shirt it’s important to keep your skin totally covered as the arc can give you serious sunburn, and the risk of skin cancer. Make sure every part of your body is covered and protected from the arc and any chemicals you are using. It’s easy to keep your skin covered so don’t run the risk of damaging your skin by exposing it.
4. Breathing in fumes
Welding generates fumes and can use shielding gas, so you need to ensure you do not breathe these in. Where possible to weld in a well ventilated area or limit the time you weld, particularly if welding in confined areas. Welding fumes can contain a wide range of chemicals from the fluxes and vaporised metal, inhaling these can damage the lungs, cause kidney failure or even damage the brain or nervous system. Carbon monoxide and ozone formed in the weld can cause dizziness, headaches or muscle weakness. Welding gasses are typically not toxic but are specifically designed to displace the oxygen in the air so breathing can result in asphyxiation. Welding specialist or coated materials, raise additional risks.
5. Setting fire to the workshop
Welding is a fire risk both in that it can create sparks and that it generates metal. Ensure that you do not have flammable items in the area near where you are welding and also ensure that you have access to your exit route and fire fighting facilities such as extinguishers or fire blankets.
If using welding automation such as a turntable or positioner ensure that the work is securely clamped so that it does not move during welding or whilst rotating. Also be aware of how the item will move so you not not get in the way.
Neil Maycock writes articles for European Plant Hire Services providers of welding equipment for Hire in the UK.