Welding Safety Precautions: Before any welding is conducted outside of a designated welding area, a responsible individual must inspect the area and identify precautions to be taken. Fire extinguishers must be available for immediate use. A fire watch lasting at least 30 minutes after the welding or cutting operations is required if more than a minor fire might develop. All combustibles must be moved 35 feet away or properly protected or shielded.
Ventilation refers to changes of room air as often as necessary to help prevent welders and other workers from breathing high levels of airborne contaminants. Ventilation is a means of providing adequate breathing air, and it must be provided for all welding, cutting, brazing and related operations. Adequate ventilation depends on the following factors:
- Volume and configuration of the space where the welding operations occur
- Number and type of operations that are generating contaminants
- Natural air flow rate where operations are taking place
- Location of the welders’ and other workers’ breathing zones in relation to contaminants or sources
Proper ventilation can be obtained either naturally or mechanically. Natural ventilation is considered sufficient for welding and brazing operations if the work area meets these requirements:
- Space of more than 10,000 square feet is provided per welder
- A ceiling height of more than 16 feet
- Welding is not done in a confined space
- Welding space does not contain partitions, balconies or structured barriers that obstruct cross ventilation
If your operation does not fall within the natural ventilation guidelines, mechanical ventilation will be required, either forced or exhaust air. Prohibited areas for welding include areas with explosive atmospheres, where flammable vapors accumulate, and near large quantities of ignitable materials.
Air sampling to verify the concentration levels of toxic fumes and gases is sometimes necessary. Management will periodically require personnel monitoring to establish exposure levels. PPE will be worn during this monitoring until exposure levels are established.
Eye damage is caused by UV damage to the cornea. You can protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses and a face shield, or a welding hood. The lens color is important if using glasses or a face shield, it needs to be dark green, not gray or black.
Burns are caused by UV light and heat. These burns can damage your eyes and skin. Protection is provided by covering exposed skin, and wearing heat resistant PPE, such as gloves or sleeves and welding hoods or face shields with green lenses.
Fire is a hazard if you have any combustible or flammable substances nearby when performing hot work. Ensure that all materials are removed or covered with fire blankets to prevent ignition.
You can also be shocked by the electricity in the welding machine. Make sure that your insulation is intact for all electrical lines and appropriate grounds are being used. Remove electrodes from holders when not in use and never use electrical raceways to hang your electrode holder.
Hazardous chemicals in the metals can cause ulcers in the skin and nasal passages and other chemicals are extremely toxic. Wear PPE, protective clothing, wash exposed skin right away and use exhaust ventilation and/or respirators to prevent respiratory exposure. Radiation exposure can happen when handling and burning the electrodes.
OSHA stresses a three lines of defense philosophy to help eliminate or reduce potential exposure to hazards.
- The first line of defense is to utilize engineering controls to eliminate the hazard. Adding ventilation or exhaust blowers to reduce air contaminants from a welding operation.
- Administrative controls are the second line of defense. Scheduling the work to limit a welder’s exposure to a hazard is an example of an administrative control. Exposure levels are based on 8 hour days. By shortening the period of welding, you reduce daily exposure.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense. Wearing a respirator to limit a welder’s exposure to welding fumes is an example of a PPE control. When properly selected and maintained, PPE can help protect employees from welding hazards.
Eye and face protection: Helmet, face shield, goggles and/or safety glasses are acceptable protection. Helmets and face shields shall be arranged to protect the face, neck and ears from direct radiant heat from the arc. Welding helmets with filter plates are intended to help protect users from arc rays and from weld sparks and spatters that strike directly against the helmet.
Protective clothing: Clothing covering all parts of the body is recommended to protect against ultraviolet and infrared ray flash burn, spatter or radiation. Heavier materials, such as wool clothing, heavy cotton or leather, are preferred as they resist deterioration. Materials that can melt or cause severe burn include synthetic fibers, such as dri fit shirts and polyester, which can melt onto your skin. Flame-resistant gloves, such as leather welder’s gloves, help provide the heat resistance needed for welding. A gauntlet cuff offers additional arm protection, and insulated linings should be used to help protect areas exposed to high radiant energy. Other protective clothing for welding safety may aprons, jackets, sleeves and chaps made of leather or other suitable materials.