Written by Michael Tobias
Welding is the highest-risk occupation of any within the construction industry. OSHA study reports that 1 out of every 250 construction workers will die from a welding accident. That doesn’t account for other potential hazards that welders face daily, such as – electrical shock, burns, eye damage, cuts, exposure of chemicals. Although, most of these injuries or deaths can be prevented with enhanced construction site safety, proper training, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment ( PPE ).
The act of welding is a procedure of heating the surfaces of metal pieces or parts to join them together. Even though welding has over 70 different welding procedures, the top three types are –
Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
Most Common Welding Hazards
Every type of welding produces risks and hazards, not only for the welder but also for other construction workers or people in the vicinity. By understanding the risk and precautions to help prevent accidents and injuries, it will make your project site safer.
FUMES AND GASES
Welding exposes the welder and other personnel to toxic fumes like carbon monoxide, aluminum, arsenic, nitrogen just to name a few. The damage caused by being exposed to welding fumes varies in degree depending on the specific gas or fume and how long the exposure lasted and range from an irritated throat or eyes to pneumonia, or cancer.
Recommended safety precautions –
Use appropriate ventilation and exhaust
Keep heat out of fume plume
When ventilation is insufficient, use approved respiratory devices
Keep contaminate levels monitored for safe air quality
Take part in targeted safety training to understand the potential dangers
Electrocution is a serious potential hazard during arc welding because live electrical circuits are used to melt metals creating risk of electric shock by touching two metal objects with a voltage between them. The electrical shock may severely injure or be fatal to the welder. Even though arc welding is a high risk occupation, it is safe when proper precautions and safety measures are taken. Such as –
Be sure all equipment is dry and in good working condition
Proper insulation – such as rubber mats
Welder wear good condition dry gloves
Welding equipment routinely inspected for safety
In humid work areas, take extra safety measures
Since welding generates sparks that can be sprayed over 30 feet from the source, fire is a genuine concern. When an occurrence happens, other workers are at a high risk of getting burned, especially one with grease on their clothes or around flammable materials.
Fire prevention measures include –
Keep all flammable chemicals, combustible substances and materials stored away from welding spaces
Minimize any clutter or dust as a high concentration of fine particles can oxidize and may cause an explosion or fire without warning
If flammable materials can’t be moved, use fire-resistant shields
Always keep a fire extinguisher handy
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When welders wear PPE, it drastically reduces the risk of physical hazards. Recommended PPE for welders are –
Boots and gloves: Rubber-soled hard toe boots and insulated flame-resistant gloves help provide protection from electric shock and falling objects.
Respirators: Reduce the gases and fumes the welder breaths in protecting lungs and respiratory systems.
Welding helmets with side-shields: Helmets protect against UV rays that could cause blindness, plus debris and chemical burns.
Fire resistant clothing: Provides protection against risks of burns caused by heat, fire and radiation.
Ear protection: Protects the ears against loud noises and vibrations within the work environment.
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One way to assure your construction site is as safe as possible is to use a professional construction management service. They can help educate workers by making them aware of all potential hazards and proper precautions to take to prevent work site accidents.
Michael Tobias, PE, is the principal and founder of Chicago Engineers. He leads a team of over 30 mechanical, electrical, and fire protection engineers. Although Chicago Engineers main headquarters are in NYC and Chicago the business has led over 1,000 engineering projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Michael is an advocate for green technology and energy efficiency.