Practice Safe Welding on the Job Site

Practice Safe Welding on the Job Site

Guest Post

Most tools found on a construction site pose some safety concerns. Some chemicals and on-site particulates also pose health concerns. But if you’re welding on a work site, you have both safety and health concerns to deal with.

Make sure to plan against these health and safety issues before you start welding at a work site.

Fumes

The heat of an arc or flame produces fumes that can be harmful or fatal if inhaled. To avoid health hazards associated with fumes:

  • Position your work so that the fumes do not hit you in the face.
  • Use proper natural and mechanical ventilation to keep the air you breathe clean.
  • Understand what is in the fumes.
  • Have a qualified authority test the air in the workspace.
  • Ensure that other employees exposed to the same atmosphere as the welder are protected in the same way as the welder.

Follow these guidelines for proper ventilation and respiration, based on where you work and with what compound:

  • Working in a confined space
    • Use an air replacement or airline respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus when working with fluorine compound, lead or lead-bearing materials or zinc (including galvanized metals).
    • Use an exhaust hood or booth and, if air sample tests indicate the need, an airline respirator when working with beryllium, cadmium or mercury.
  • Working indoors
  • Use an exhaust hood or booth when working with lead or zinc (including galvanized metals).
  • Test air samples to determine whether an exhaust hood, booth or airline respirator is required for working with other materials.
  • Test air samples to determine whether an exhaust hood, booth or airline respirator is required when working with fluorine compound or beryllium.
  • If air tests indicate a need, use a combination particulate and vapor-and-gas-removing respirator when working with lead, zinc, cadmium or mercury.
  • Working outdoors

Radiation

The bright part of welding is the radiation you can see. Not preparing for that is bad enough, but you also need to take invisible ultraviolet and infrared radiation into account. Protect yourself and others from radiation while you’re welding:

  • Wear protective glasses with UV-protective side shields as well as a proper welding helmet with a filter plate.
  • Wear adequate gloves to protect your skin.
  • Use screens, curtains and distance to avoid other workers’ direct or reflected contact with radiation.
  • Make sure all people walking or working nearby wear UV-protective safety glasses.

Burns, fire and explosions

The most obvious safety issues for welders stem from the heat that a welding torch produces. Take proper precautions to avoid burns, uncontrolled fires and explosions.

  • Wear oil-free, hole-free garments, including long pants with no cuffs.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and understand how to use it.
  • Provide adequate ventilation.
  • Don’t weld on a work piece covered by an unknown substance or one you know to be flammable, toxic or reactive.
  • Remove any combustible material within at least 35 feet of your work space.
  • If you can’t remove nearby combustible materials, shield them with fire-resistant covers or take your work to a safer location.
  • When possible, enclose the work area with fire-resistant screens.
  • Block or cover all openings within 35 feet.
  • After welding, thoroughly examine the area for signs of fire.
  • Don’t weld in areas containing reactive, toxic or flammable gases, vapors, dust or liquids.
  • Mark hot pieces to alert others of the danger of burns.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent injuries is to be aware of your surroundings. Knowing who — and what — is nearby can help you plan ahead, creating a safer work environment.

For more detail regarding safety regulations for welding, see the website for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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