Safety for welders cannot be underestimated especially as a beginner or someone who is just learning how to perform arc welding. As a beginner welder, it is important to follow all the welding safety precautions to avoid any welding hazards.
Safety is important to becoming a successful welder and having a long career, so, it is important to take welding safety tips seriously and ensure that you are equipped with all the knowledge and skills that you need to be in the workplace.
Do you want to know all the welding safety tips you should know as a beginner welder? In this article, you will discover important rules you should follow and all the hazards you should avoid.
There is clothing for every occasion and the same goes for welding. Just like doctors, lawyers and engineers have their special clothing, so do welders do, and this fire resistant clothing is not just important for demarcation, it is critical for the welding profession.
Exposing your skin makes you vulnerable to all the harmful effects that come along with ultraviolet rays and infrared lights created during welding, so you must always ensure that you are fully covered.
Furthermore, pockets, pant cuffs, or any loose items of clothing that can fly around and catch flames or flying sparks should not be worn. If you have a handkerchief with you, ensure that it is kept safely deep in your pocket and that part of it is not left out. It is important to stay secure.
What then is the right clothing? As a welder, you should wear clothing that is resistant to flame with the proper PPE.
Proper Wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Selecting the right PPE is one of the most crucial decisions that you can make to keep yourself protected as a welder. Here are examples of the right type of PPE you should wear as a welder;
Face Protection: for a welder, face Protection encompasses face Shields, safety glasses, and some other types of cover worn on the face depending on the project. Helmets to protect your eyes and face from burns and .
Fume Protection: Fume protection includes respirators and systems used for fume extraction that can help weather's protect themselves from being exposed to harmful fumes and gases.
Ear protection: You are required to use ear protection as a welder at all times especially if the noise readings are more than eighty five decibels for eight hours continuously. Exposing yourself to high levels of noise continuously can affect your hearing and bring about partial deafness.
Heat and radiation protection: In order to keep yourself protected from radiation and heat, you must wear a fire resistant outerwear as a welder. Flame resistant wears include hand gloves to protect the hands and other lower parts of the hands, googles, and welding hoods.
Foot protection: Leather shoes that are heat and spark resistant are important for foot protection. The shoes should be able to have a coverage that reaches above the ankles in order to provide full and proper foot protection. Pant legs should also go over the shoes.
Electric shock protection: In addition to all the safety precautions and proper PPE wearing outlined above, you must wear insulated clothing as a welder. Wearing insulated clothing will keep you protected from electric shock.
Personal protective equipment can sometimes feel uncomfortable and constrictive. Finding a solution that is good fitting and comfortable will ensure that you wear it. Either way, it's better to be uncomfortable for a small amount of time than for life with injuries.
Ensure that you are appropriately protected from fumes and gases
Welding in enclosed or confined spaces is not good for you. When you weld in an enclosed space, you can expose yourself to fumes and gases that are poisonous. Gasses and fumes are part of arc welding hazards, so you need to appropriately protect yourself whenever you are welding.
Some employers might provide you with a fan, exhaust systems, or sometimes exhaust hoods to remove gasses and fumes from the area you're working in. In some other cases, however, these will be absent. That is why it is good for you to always plan on welding in an open space - and stick to it, whether exhaust systems are provided for you or not.
Whenever you deem necessary, wear a respirator so that you can keep yourself protected against inhaling harmful substances. If you ever feel like your breathing is getting inhibited during welding, it is important for you to revaluate your work.
Be Careful Of Electrocution
Electrocution and electric shock is one of the most important things you need to know about and how to avoid them, because it can pose a serious health risk, sometimes death , and you're very prone to it while welding.
To prevent yourself from experiencing any electric hazards that could occur from welding, always make sure that you take out enough time to inspect the electrode holder and leads to see if there's any damage done to them before you start to weld. Don't be in a rush. If you find out there is any form of damage, don't try to use the equipment for use, get it repaired immediately.
You must ensure that all visual pre welding checks are carried out before every use. Look at the current and return cables, see to it that they are undamaged, clean, and correctly rated for the required current, also guarantee that the conductor is thick enough to safely carry the current.
Secondly, your gloves must be dry and in good condition, no wear or tear. Water is a good conductor of electricity and by extension - electrocution. So, if your gloves are wet, you might just be setting yourself up for what you were trying to pretend at first.
Thirdly, avoid touching the metal parts of the electrode holder with your bare skin with any wet clothing, also, do ensure that you keep dry insulation between your body and metal being welded or the ground, to avoid getting electrocuted.
Always Make Sure All Pieces of Equipment Are In Good Condition
One important welding safety tip to follow is that all your equipment should always be in good condition. As a welder who is just starting, keeping your equipment in good condition is one factor you should never overlook.
Your equipment must not just be properly functioning, they must also be fully grounded before you attempt to use them anytime. This is one of the common rules of welding, regularly check your equipment for wear and tear, for instance, leaking hoses, frayed wires, and other circumstances which can occur as a result of an accident that happened or long term use.
Even if a piece of equipment was perfectly in good condition before, do not assume that it is still in good condition, it will be unsafe to do so. Always ensure that you carry out a full inspection before utilizing the instrument again. You can never be too sure, so check to be double sure.
Use the right welding tools for the job
Using the proper tools for the task is critical to your safety. I've seen several accidents over the years where workers tried to use the wrong tool for the task at hand.
Ensure that you're familiar with the welding tools that your using. You need to know how to operate and maintain them. If guards are missing, cords, leads or other major components are damaged, have it repaired or replaced.
There are a variety of tools for welding. You can check out our article below to see some of the welding tools that are used in the fab shop.
33 Welding Tools Every Beginner and Accomplished Welder Needs
One of the most common accidents that happen in the workplace is fires and explosions, which often more than not, stems from a cluttered workspace. A welding arc can release sparks that fly high up to a distance of about thirty five feet, therefore, it is essential to declutter your workspace and clear off all unwanted materials especially those that are flammable or can ignite fire.
One rule of thumb is to always ensure that your space is organized and keep every piece of equipment in the right place. Those that belong to cases and bags should be kept there respectively. Always ensure that the tools and equipment contained in your workplace are the ones you're specifically using for a certain project at that point.
Understand Your Environment
Before you start to weld anything, take proper and thorough inventory of the environment you are going to be working in. Knowing the right places to leave your tools and equipment not only increases your ability to work better, it also guarantees you a higher degree of safety.
For instance, it is essential to know the specific locations of emergency exits, fire alarms, sand buckets, fire extinguishers, and other important equipment you would need to put out flames in the event of a fire.
Other fumes and gases in your environment
Other welding hazards to consider is the work environment and flammable materials that are in it. If you find yourself welding in the oil and gas industry, there will be plenty. Hydrocarbons are toxic, flammable and explosive in the right mixtures.
The company you're performing the work for should verify the absence of hydrocarbon gases using atmospheric testing multi gas meters before welding begins. Generally there will be safety measures in place in the form of a work permit and possibly an energy isolation procedure.
Nitrogen use prior to welding
Part of the energy isolation procedure may have called for purging or sweeping the process with nitrogen. Although nitrogen is inert, it can still kill you through asphyxiation. If nitrogen has been used, ensure the air is tested and adequate ventilation is used.
H2S safety hazards
H2S is one of the other potential hazards that can be found in oil and gas settings. It's highly toxic, highly flammable and highly deadly to everyone, including welders.
Avoid Repetitive Stress
Welding is a career that requires you to "have your hands on" and that can lead to injuries if you do not avoid repetitive stress even if you follow all the right precautions and always protect yourself.
One way to avoid repetitive stress is to practice safe lifting techniques and ensure to break up your day so that you can stretch your body and feel relaxed. This will help you avoid repetitive stress injuries which you're especially prone to as a welder.
Look Away From The Lights
Apart from wearing your helmet, glasses, goggles, and other eye wear, it is very important to ensure that you do not look directly at the light due to welding safety.
Looking directly at the lights when you weld can cause a painful condition known as Arc Flash. This condition usually develops within a few hours after concentrating on welding ultraviolet lights and flames and the damage can quickly occur.
This is most times, a temporary condition, but part of the symptoms which include swelling of the eyes, pain, or tearing up at intervals can be extremely discomforting.
Auto Darkening Helmets
Auto darkening helmet is beyond protective wear. The sensor available on this helmet causes the lens to darken within a few seconds. Every helmet that is considered to be an auto darkening helmet must meet the ANSI standard. The auto darkening industrial helmet reacts at a speed of 1/10000 to 1/20000 of a second and is manufactured with an adjustable shade setting of #9 to #13 for the welding.
The auto darkening helmet also has an adjustable sensitivity and has been discovered to be very useful at even low amperage. It helps in controlling and adjusting the length of time it takes for the lens to stay dark once the arc ceases.
There are also new designs of newer ranges of auto darkening helmets in such a way that one helmet can assist in shielding you during the welding, cutting, and grinding. It is also important to avoid helmets that darken in a time of 1/2000 to 1/3600 of a second as they are not good enough for industrial applications.
Furthermore, cold weather has bearing on auto darkening helmets because the cold weather slows down the reaction time and may cause the helmet to not darken quickly in damped weather.
Stick To Any Training, Housekeeping Information, and Communication That Has Been Provided By Your Employer
Every employer has an obligation to make sure that all their workers are effectively and efficiently trained in their work and the duties that they provide. They must also ensure that whenever and wherever it's necessary, their employees and other people in the welding vicinity are briefed.
These include providing you the welder, with all relevant information about the equipment you use, or your work activities. Any relevant information that has been communicated to you, or any training that you've been provided with must be stuck to including information on how to assess risk and all the measures taken to control risk in the workplace.
It is your responsibility as a welder to work in a way that ensures the health and safety of both yourself and the people around you. This means that you must work in line with all the instructions and training provided by your employer or boss in any matters that relate to the health and safety of everyone.
Always ensure maximum cooperation between you and your employer in matters that relate to safety during welding exercises and properly utilize all the control measures that have been enforced as a result of the risk assessment carried out in the workplace.
Another great resource is a downloadable pdf from American Welding Society that you can read titled, Safety in Welding, Cutting, and Allied Processes.
Always Keep a Fire Extinguisher at The Workplace
Welding has to do with sparks and flames, and sometimes, some circumstances can happen unforeseen. One of these is fires. Some of the fumes and gasses used during the welding process are combustible and just a little mistake or a bypass of one welding rule that doesn't seem useful can breed this unfortunate happening.
It is always important to keep a fire extinguisher with you in the workplace just in case a fire mistakenly erupts. A fire extinguisher will help you manage a fire as much as you can before you can get professionals to help if there is a fire break out at the workplace.
You can also keep a bucket of sand beside you. Sand is a local way of putting fire out. Using water to put out big fires is not advised because water contains oxygen which is exactly what the fire needs to keep burning. Only professional fire fighters are trained to use water.
Stick And Carrot Approaches
If you want successful implementation, never take your welding safety as a program because programs tend to fade away after some time. Instead, ensure safety is incorporated into your daily workouts and try as much as possible to comply with all safety instructions.
Safety is rewarding. Apart from protecting yourself, you also protect the lives of others around you.
When welding safety becomes a part of your daily activities, you can expect a reduction in lost time incidents and increment in productivity.
Study welding safety procedures manuals
Studying is important for you as a welder who's just starting out. To be a successful welder, you need to know all the safety procedures by heart, and one major way you can achieve this is by studying the safety procedures for a long period and continuously too.
You need to take out time to educate yourself on all the important safety guidelines and even the not so important ones that can appear handy at some point. These guidelines include some set in place by national organizations, the company you might work for, and the general welding guidelines which helps you to ensure a workspace that is safe and productive for everyone.
You also need to study manufacturers instructions before operating any equipment as a welder. As a welder, you should never assume or feel like you know how to use a certain piece of equipment before you have read and understood the guidelines of the manufacturer for ensuring safe operation. Always read the manuals.
Final thoughts on welding hazards
Welding is a great skill and job that anyone can have but it can be hazardous especially if you are just learning to weld.
The article above has, however, provided you with some basic welding safety precautions and tips that you can follow when just learning to weld.
These include wearing your safety gear, not looking at the welding lights, decluttering, and learning to use your machines properly by reading the label. Also keeping a fire extinguisher with you while welding and sticking to instructions will help you a great deal.
Welding safety is an important part of welding that must never be overlooked.