Electric Arc Welding
Welding of metals can involve a great number of health and safety hazards. The
operator should be impressed with the fact that there are high voltages capable of inflicting severe and often
Safe and accident free
completion of any welding operation should be the goal of all welders. Here are a few welding safety tips that
will help you achieve that goal.
Wearing proper eye
protection is very important. Welders and their helpers should be sure to use the correct filter lens in their
goggles or helmets to protect their eyes from infrared and ultraviolet light.
Precautions for fire
prevention must be taken in areas where welding is being done, i.e. isolating the welding and cutting area and
removing fire hazards from the immediate vicinity.
If normal fire prevention
precautions are not sufficient, a qualified person must be assigned to guard against fire during the operation
and for 30 minutes after completion of the work, to ensure that no possibility of fire exists. Fire
extinguishing equipment must be in near proximity for immediate use.
In areas where heavy dust
concentrations exist, or where flammable paints or other flammable materials are present, welding, cutting or
heating can create a significant fire hazard. Proceed with extreme caution!
A noncombustible or
flameproof screen should isolate the welding or cutting area to protect other workers in the vicinity from
direct arc rays. Watch your slag; it could cause a serious injury to someone working below.
If the electrode holder is
left unattended, the electrodes must be removed, and the holder must be placed so that electrical contact cannot
be made with another employee or any conducting object.
All arc welding and cutting
cables must be completely insulated and capable of handling the maximum current requirements for the job. The
insulation on any splice within 10 feet of the electrode holder must be equal to the insulation of the
All welding and cutting
operations in a confined space shall be ventilated to prevent the accumulation of toxic materials or possible
Some of the Health and Safety Risks
Physical injury - electric shock, gas explosion, burns
from sparks and spatter.
Arc-eye (welding flash)
- gritty feeling in the eye and
skin burning can result from invisible ultra-violet radiation from the arc. The effect is
delayed. It is particularly intense with TIG welding (tungsten inert gas) of aluminum alloy.
Damage to the retina and blindness can occur.
Radiation burns - unfiltered ultra-violet light from
cutting or welding can cause severe short-term skin burn, and poses the same long term skin
cancer risks as sunburn.
Lung disease - during cutting and welding, nearly all
metals generate fume that if inhaled can lead to Lung disease. Some metals, especially nickel
and chromium which are found in different grades of steel, have also been associated with causing
Metal fume fever - from nearly all metals during cutting
and welding, can cause vomiting, chills and headache. Effects may be delayed several hours
and last 24 hours. Zinc fume from galvanized iron is most severe, though copper and tin
fume are nearly as bad.
Fume poisoning - from such metals as lead, zinc and
cadmium; can enter through the nose and mouth through smoking or eating with contaminated
hands. Continuous exposure may lead to long term blood disorders, nerve damage and
Gases and Fumes
Fluoride - emitted from coating on low hydrogen rods. It
can damage the lungs and cause general poisoning.
Ozone - a highly toxic gas produced from any arc-type
welding, can cause long term respiratory problems. Ozone has a characteristic irritating pungent odor
and can cause short term aches and nausea.
Heated coatings and paints
- can release toxic substances
such as cyanide, formaldehyde and isocyanates.
Fluxes - some types may give off hazardous substances
when heated. A Material Safety Data Sheet should be obtained from suppliers to determine hazards of
Fire - with welding blanket, by removing or covering
flammable materials, or working a safe distance from flammable substances.
Explosion - by checking before welding and cutting that
tanks and drums are steamed clean free of substances that are flammable or give off flammable
substances when heated. Introduce compressed air into tanks that have contained flammable liquids or
gases when welding tanks.
Fume and gas hazards - by one or a combination of:
Metal spatter or arc-eye injury to
bystanders - by use of
screens or proper welding curtains or blankets.
Care with Equipment
Lighting - should be adequate for safe use of equipment
and for reading labels.
Power circuit earth - every power circuit must be grounded to prevent
accidental shock by stray current. DON'T operate a welding machine without a ground on the power
Welding cables - must not be operated at currents in excess of
their rated capacity. The cables should be inspected frequently.
Burns - use proper gloves, overalls or aprons and
insulated type footwear.
Eyes - protect them with a helmet and visor of a
grade designed for the type of arc welding; wear eye protection during slag removal or
Fumes - if local exhaust ventilation is insufficient,
ensure an adequate air supply to the operator is essential.
Solvents - don't weld or cut near cleaning tanks
containing chlorinated solvents; heat breaks down vapors into very toxic gases.
Radiation - avoid radiation exposure from weld checking
Comfort - ensure your protective equipment is comfortable
to wear and your work equipment comfortable to use.
The OSH ACT requires
employers to provide a healthy and safe work environment.
Employees are required under
the ACT; to use all personal protective equipment in the correct and safe manner (as instructed by their
employer); and to co-operate with their employer to fulfill their duties and not to endanger themselves or