A 48-year-old shipyard welder was welding on a barge that was undergoing renovation, working from an elevating work platform. A pinhole leak developed in the hydraulic lines on the lift, and the escaping hydraulic oil was ignited by sparks from the welding operation. The worker was taken to a burn unit, but later died.
Yesterday, we talked about the four most common hazards of MIG welding—including fires, respiratory hazards, burns, eye injuries, and ergonomic injuries. Today, we’re going to talk about control mechanisms that can be used to minimize the risk from each of those hazards.
Protecting welders and other workers
To protect themselves and others against welding hazards, it’s essential that welders take appropriate precautions.
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Fire prevention. Welders should clear the work area of all flammable and combustible materials and always have a fire extinguisher readily available. If flammable and combustible materials cannot be removed from the work area, welders should use a combination of barriers, a fire watch, and hot work permitting to control fire hazards.
Respiratory protection. Reduce workers’ exposure to toxic fumes during welding by:
- Cleaning the workpiece to remove any paint, solvent residue, or other substances that could generate toxic smoke and fumes;
- Providing good, general ventilation in the work area and training workers to position themselves to avoid vapors generated by welding;
- Using local exhaust ventilation to remove contaminants from the work area; and
- Providing respirators if ventilation and positioning cannot reduce air contaminants to safe levels.
Burn prevention. Welders should wear protective, flame-resistant gloves (such as leather welder’s gloves) insulated to provide protection from heat and having gauntlet cuffs to provide arm protection. Other protective clothing can include fire-retardant coveralls or aprons and leather boots or shoes. Workers should avoid synthetic materials like polyester and nylon that can melt to the skin when exposed to high temperatures.
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Eye injury prevention. You must protect the eyes of the welder and any other workers in the area from the welding arc, flying sparks, and droplets of hot metal. You can use welding blinds to shield the work area from surrounding areas.
For welders, the welding hood protects the eyes from physical damage and burns. The lens shade built into a welder’s hood damps the light of the arc so the welder can see the weld zone without risking eye damage. Lens shades come in different filter strengths, rated from #8 to #13, and should be chosen based on the amperage used for welding.
Ergonomic injury prevention. To prevent ergonomic injuries, minimize welders’ tendency to close their welding hoods by jerking their heads. For workers who do not often need to lift and lower their hoods, it may be enough to train them to use their free hand to lower their hoods. For welders who do need to raise and lower their hoods often, consider providing hoods with autodarkening lenses that will lighten when the welding arc is shut off and darken quickly when the arc is activated.
To prevent ergonomic injuries related to positioning and posture, give workers control over the layout and arrangement of their workstation and workpiece wherever possible, using adjustable worktables and workstations.
Need more information on protecting your welders? Check out the resources on Safety.BLR.com®.