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Learning how to weld can lead you to a fulfilling hobby or long-term career, but is incredibly dangerous when not performed correctly. We created this industry-professionally reviewed guide to provide all the safety basics in one place. Topics covered include:
- The main hazards of welding and how they happen
- Essential welding safety equipment and PPE
- How to keep your workspace safe
- OSHA requirements for welders
Welding is a craft that has been honed in the last century, it’s a very useful trade to learn, and one that’s in high demand today due to critical construction workforce shortages. It’s a process that involves plenty of dangerous elements — electricity, fire, bright lights, and harmful gas emissions.
Getting burnt, being electrocuted, developing respiratory issues from inhaling hazardous fumes, and being blinded are all very real dangers. Keeping safe is of utmost importance if you value your life, quality of life, or limbs.
Read on for some welding safety tips to keep you safe while you work on your latest welding project.
Safety starts with wearing the right gear and protecting your most valuable assets – your eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet, skin, lungs, and limbs, of course. Here is a list of essential items to kit yourself out in:
- A welders helmet – newer versions now have lenses that adjust to light the same way that prescription sunglasses do so you can see what you are doing when you’re not welding without adjusting your helmet.
- Leather boots – make sure to get ones with steel-reinforced toes and a rubber sole.
- A heavy overcoat or shirt and apron – leather or fire-retardant canvas or fabric are the ideal materials for these to be made from.
- Thick leather gloves, long denim or leather pants, and leather spats – the idea is to cover all of your exposed skin with a flame-resistant material to avoid any nasty burns to your skin from direct spatter or through your clothing catching on fire.
- A welding skull cap – this will protect your face, neck, and head where your welding helmet does not cover you. It should be flame resistant and cover the top of your head, the side of your face and your ears, your forehead, and the back and front of your neck.
- An N95 or N99 mask for simple welding or an N100 mask for arc welding – using one of these while also practicing safe ventilation methods will drastically decrease your exposure to dangerous fumes.
When buying protective clothing, always choose the best quality items you can afford. Inspect each item regularly for damage and replace it if necessary.
Safeguard Your Workspace
Never weld in an area with inadequate airflow. If you are working indoors, make sure you are using a commercial-grade ventilation system or an adequate extraction hood.
Make sure you are grounded. Never weld while standing on a wet surface or metal flooring. Wearing the correct gear also helps to insulate you from electric shock and electrocution.
Only allow trained professionals to perform maintenance and repairs on your welding equipment and make sure to test it regularly.
Spatter from welders can reach about 35 feet away from where you are working. Clear away any flammable items within this range to avoid starting a fire. If certain things cannot be relocated, cover them with a sheet of metal or a fire-retardant blanket.
You can also block spatter from items within range with non-flammable material.
Dehydration can cause fainting and dizziness. Keep hydrated while you work to stop an otherwise safe situation turning into an unfortunate accident. Plan to take regular cooling-off breaks or take one immediately if you feel dizzy or thirsty.
Prepare for the Unexpected When Welding
- Read or re-read the manual before starting work to make sure you understand the operation of all the equipment you will be using.
- Apply for a training course to hone your expertise If you’re an employer, consider sending your employees for a training course. There are even employer training grants available in the US for this.
- Brush up on emergency protocol. If you don’t yet have a protocol, what are you waiting for? Map out different scenarios and write down what the necessary steps would be. This will help you to eliminate any forgotten hazards and procure any essential emergency, first-aid, and safety equipment that you might have previously overlooked. You’ll be calm and prepared for any situation, and this could save a life.
- Keep fire-fighting equipment close by – fire extinguishers that have been inspected and are within their expiry date are a must. A hose pipe, sand buckets, a trough filled with water or wet blanket are also worth considering keeping readily available while you work.
- Buy a first aid kit specially assembled for use in welding accidents and get accustomed to using the items in it.
The CDCs’ NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls pyramid perfectly sums up the important practices for safety mentioned in this article, listed from most to least effective:
- Elimination – physically remove the hazard.
- Substitution – replace the hazard with something less hazardous.
- Engineering controls – isolate people from the hazard.
- Administrative controls – change the way people work around the hazard.
- PPE – Protect the worker with personal protective equipment.
Keep yourself safe and happy welding to you.