Although most welders have taken formal welding classes to get their certifications, bad welding habits may form over time. It is easy to justify taking a safety shortcut for an easy job. Safety directors or shop supervisors should be aware of this tendency and should review the work habits of their personnel on a regular basis. To simplify this review, factors contributing to welding injuries can be divided into three main categories: proper use of safety equipment and clothing, a safe working environment, and ergonomics.
Proper Use of Safety Equipment and Clothing
Over 30% of the injuries welders sustain are to their eyes. All welders need to use approved welder’s masks or eye protection while performing welding and related activities. Because another 20% of all injuries occur to the hands, the wearing of fireproof or fire-resistant protective welding gloves in good condition should be mandatory. Fire-resistant vests and long-sleeved shirts of wool or cotton can help keep the chest and arms safe from hot sparks. Leather boots with steel toes are strongly recommended, and pants should not be tucked in, which may trap hot fragments of material next to the skin. Ear protection should be worn to reduce noise levels and prevent hot material from entering the ear canal.
Safe Working Environment
Before welders start any welding job, they need to inspect their working environment for hazards. The floor needs to be dry and clear of obstructions. Adequate ventilation should also be in place. Vents should be checked for obstructions, and fans need to be working properly. The workspace needs to be clear of combustible items and flammable liquids, and any electrical wire or connection should be in good condition. When returning after a break or lunch, workers need to re-inspect their work area, prior to resuming their work.
As much as possible, work projects and often-used equipment should be conveniently located to eliminate the need for excessive bending or stretching. When working with a heavy material, getting into the proper position before lifting and using proper lifting techniques will help to avoid injury. Welders should also maintain the proper posture while working. Habitually straining muscles while working can lead to permanent or chronic damage to those areas. Over 20% of welding related injuries are injuries to joints or the lower back because of poor ergonomics in the workplace.
Good safety habits can be reinforced by having periodic classes or refresher welding training. This reinforces the importance of good safety habits as well as how to perform proper protocols. Attending welding classes also provide the opportunity to learn new procedures and to hear full explanations on written safety rules.