Occupational Health & Safety points out that eye injuries account for 25% of all welding injuries, making it the most common injury for welders. While malfunctioning equipment sometimes occurs through no fault of the welder, consistently observing safety standards designed to protect welders from burns, respiratory distress and accidental explosions will greatly reduce the chance of severe accidents occurring to welders. As welding is becoming an increasingly attractive career choice for many, safety training is a crucial part of a welder’s certification program.
10 Welding Safety Tips
1. Wool is the most commonly used fabric for protective clothing because it offers high resistance to fire. Never wear synthetic fabrics while welding–most melt immediately upon exposure to heat. Cotton is an acceptable fabric if it has been treated with a fire retardant compound.
2. Avoid rolling pants cuffs or sleeves while welding. Hot sparks or tiny pieces of smoldering metal could land in the folds and burn through clothing. In addition, tucking your pants into your boots makes it easy for sparks to fall into your boots.
3. Boots should be made of high-grade leather and cover at least eight inches above your ankle. Welders working around heavy items that are moved frequently should also wear safety toe boots. Prevent shoelaces from catching on fire by covering them with metatarsal guards.
4. Always wear eye protection to prevent retinal burning or future development of cataracts. Welding arcs emit infrared radiation and ultraviolet radiation. While you can feel IR as intense heat, you cannot feel UV radiation. Arc welders who do not wear eye protection may suffer “welder’s flash” a potentially serious eye condition that causes swelling, pain, extreme watering of the eyes and temporary blindness.
5. Your welding helmet’s filter lens should be dark enough to block sight of the arc. Lighter shades are available to accommodate other welding projects, as long as you remain above the minimum recommended shade (rating).
6. Protect your ears from dangerous particles and sparks by wearing earmuffs or earplugs.
7. Always handle acetylene cylinders with extreme care to prevent damage to the safety fuse plug or valves. Store cylinders upright in dry, well-ventilated locations at least 20 to 25 feet from combustible materials. Exposing acetylene cylinders to heat increases pressure and may force the safety fuse plug to blow out.
8. Wear flame-resistant aprons to further protect the chest area when welding jobs produce excessive radiant energy and sparks.
9. To avoid inhaling “fume plumes”, welders need to ensure that proper ventilation (mechanical or natural) is established and working prior to beginning a job. Removing welding fume is optimized by forcing airflow across the face instead of forcing air from behind the head.
10. Perform a thorough inventory of all hazardous materials involved with the welding project by accessing the Material Safety Data Sheet that should always be made available by the welder’s employer.
The American National Standard Institute for Welding
ANSI offers “safety considerations within the welding industry, covering everything from generally applicable guidelines to requirements specific to a single piece of equipment used for a single welding procedure”. These guidelines cover airborne, arc welding, equipment, personal protection and general welding safety standards. Additional information regarding welding safety and health tips can also be found at the U.S. Occupational and Safety Health Administration website.