The most common and best method of joining metals together is welding. Using this method, two pieces of metal can be joined to be as strong as — if not stronger than — the original pieces. However, this joining carries with it many hazards, which can be a nightmare for managers and insurers. Here are some tips for avoiding welding accidents on the job site.
Hazards and Types of Welding
Each form of welding has its own applications and risks. In general, the hazards of welding include penetration, dust, smoke and fumes, impact and radiation from heat, electricity and light.
Types of welding, and the applications of each, include:
- Arc Welding: Often used in construction work, an electrical arc between an electrode and base metals is used to fuse two parts together. The arc creates heat which melts the metal and mixes the molten pieces together. A separate power supply furnishes the arc using alternating or direct current.
- Gas Welding: By using a gas flame to melt the surfaces of two pieces of metal, the parts are mixed and upon cooling become one. This form of welding makes use of a propellant and fuel such as acetylene or hydrogen. Generally, this form of welding is used in general maintenance work, soldering or brazing.
- Oxygen or Arc Cutting: Sometimes metals need to be cut apart before they can be re-joined properly. Oxygen cutting uses a gas flame and oxygen jet to cut metal. Arc cutting uses electricity to melt away metal.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is the best way to avoid injury from welding accidents. Every welder should be familiar with proper face and eye protection for the task at hand. Each job has the right gloves, hand shields, helmets, gloves, safety glasses or combination of protective clothing and equipment.
OSHA guidelines require the proper use of such equipment, and it is vital that all workers be well-trained and certified in the use of the right pieces of equipment for each job. Helmets with filter plates, for example, are used for protection from sparks, arc rays and splatters that can damage the head or face. They do not work against chips, fragments and bristles that can bounce underneath the helmet. Cover plates, safety glasses and hand shields are used to protect against heat and physical hazards.
Ventilation is vital for defending against fumes, smoke, dust and other air hazards. This allows the welder to have an adequate supply of breathable air and is required for any welding, brazing, cutting or similar work. When determining proper ventilation, take into account the size and shape of the work area, the amount of contaminants possibly generated, and the location and proximity of work and breathing zones.
There are many hazards that go hand-in-hand with welding operations, but the best defense is always training and education. Site supervisors and workers need to be informed and up-to-date on all current OSHA regulations and on the needs of each individual job. Those who are not welding or properly trained should avoid areas where such duties are being performed, at all costs. Welders should carry a comprehensive liability coverage policy to protect themselves and their company’s assets, as well as additional general liability policies, equipment protection and workers compensation insurance.