Welding operations can have hazardous effects. Here are the risk factors and safety precautions.
Electric Shock– This is the most common risk during the arc welding process. Live electric circuits are used to create molten metal. Contact with metal parts which are electrically charged can cause injury or death because of the shock affect upon the body or a fall as a result of the reaction to the shock.
Voltage shocks are divided into two categories:
- Primary voltage shock – occurs by touching a lead inside the welding equipment with power on while when one hand or body touches the welding equipment case or other ground metal.
- Secondary voltage shock – occurs when touching part of the electrode of the circuit or the bare spot on the electrode cable & another part of the body touches both sides of the welding circuit at the same time.
Electric shock precaution tips:
- Work on damp conditions (Do not touch the electrode or metal parts of the electrode holder with skin or wet clothing). Keep dry insulation between the bodies. Metals should be welded on dry floor. Use plywood, rubber mats or other dry insulation to stand or lay upon.
- Welding cables and electrode holders should be in good condition. Electrode cable should be repaired and secured using electrical tape.
- Ask for an electrician to connect the wire from the primary voltage and connect the case to an earth ground. The ground allows a fuse to blow if a problem develops inside the welding equipment.
Arc Rays – It is important to protect eyes from radiation. Infrared radiation can cause retinal burning and cataracts. A brief exposure to UV radiation can cause an eye burn known as “welder’s flash.” Normally, welder’s flash is temporary, but repeated or prolonged exposure can lead to permanent eye injury. One will also feel extreme discomfort and eye swelling, fluid excretion and temporary blindness.
The best way to completely shade against arc radiation is helmet-type shields or hand-held face shields. Hard plastic or fiberglass shields protect the head, face, ears and neck from electric shock, heat, sparks and flames.
Also, use safety glasses with side shields or goggles to protect eyes from flying particles.
Fires and explosions– The welder should be aware of the increased temperatures when welding. The heat of the welding arc can reach up to 10,000° F but the danger itself comes from the intense heat during work through the forms of sparks and molten metals. The welder should keep the distance from the combustible materials.
Look for flammable coatings, fine dust particles or any unknown substances that would ignite when heated. Combustible substances should be move or put a fire-resistant shield in place.
Workplace should have fire alarms & fire extinguishers and/or use alternative fire-fighting equipment like fire hoses, sand buckets, & fire-resistant blankets.
Exposure to Fumes and Gases- Welders are exposed to invisible gaseous fumes, including nitrogen oxides, chromium and other harmful gases which easily penetrate into the body. Exposure to these gases will result to headaches, chest pains, irritation of the eyes, & itchiness in the nose, throat & severe illnesses such as pneumonia, asthma, cancer & metal fume fever. To reduce the risk; first keep the head out of the fume plume, use mechanical ventilation or local exhaust at the arc to direct the fume plume away from the face. If this is not enough, use fixed or moveable exhaust hoods to draw the fume from the general area.
Noise Hazards- Welders are prone to loud noise. A loud noise is considered to be 85 dB (A) & in welding activities noise levels are over 100 dB (A). This can be very damaging to the ears which can result in hearing impairment, tinnitus, vertigo, increase in heart rate & blood pressure. One should wear ear plus or muffs to protect the ear drums from the noise.
Below is a picture of a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You can find all of these items at fireflywelding.org.