Source : Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Welding is common on every construction site and so welding safety should feature on the safety management agenda. The most important consideration for welding work is that welders be suitably trained and experienced for the work they are to perform, in order to minimize the risks and hazards involved.
If workers who are not suitably competent to conduct welding work, are instructed by superiors to do so, the business will be held responsible for any incidents that may occur and will most likely receive a fine. So before allowing workers to engage in this potentially dangerous task consider whether the person is qualified and in possession of a certificate. The workers should be able to demonstrate recent experience and competence.
The next consideration would be to ensure that personal protective equipment and clothing be provided for the worker engaged in welding. Some of the PPE required includes a helmet with a filtered lens, fire resistant gloves, a leather apron, boots and leather spats. It is important that PPE be maintained and cleaned regularly to ensure its effectiveness.
A risk assessment of the process of welding on the site should be carried out and if the process is absolutely necessary then a safety plan will ensure it is safely carried out. The hazards involved with welding on a construction site include:
- The arc which reaches very high temperatures (approximately 6000 degrees Celsius) is very hot and presents a hazard. The rays emitted by the welding, both ultraviolet and infra-red can be dangerous to those around it. Welders not wearing overalls can sustain injuries similar to extreme sunburn.
- The fumes can also be dangerous. When conducted in an open air environment, the fumes may be released safely into the air without causing harm. The biggest hazard is presented by welding in a confined space. Welding in a confined area, or a space without proper ventilation can cause the worker to suffocate and precautions should be taken, such as wearing a respirator or maintaining good ventilation in the space.
- Another hazard is presented by the combination of heat and gas which can be volatile. Welding can cause explosions so the material being welded should be assessed to ensure that it will not explode. For example a drum or container that previously contained toxic fumes can explode when welding takes place. Ensure that heating does not liberate toxic fumes, causing an explosion.
- Also a welded surface will be extremely hot. So it should not be touched by the person engaged in welding and others that may be on the site as it can cause a burn.
- The greatest danger to the welder is presented by the electrical circuit. Welders should never attempt to connect or chance welding cables before switching its off at the mains first. Welders should ensure they install the welding machine as near as possible to the power point and only use welding cables that are insulated completely.
Welders should also wear rubber soled shoes and dry gloves when handling equipment that is live. Electrical repairs to the welding machine should be done by an electrician and not by the welder.
When engaged in gas welding, ensure that the gas is not leaking. Leaking gas can be extremely dangerous. Leaking oxygen makes the atmosphere more oxygen rich which can be dangerous if someone lights a cigarette or a spark ignites.
Also welders shouldn’t smoke when welding and those in the vicinity also shouldn’t smoke or keep a lighter on them as it could explode.
As long as welders are operating safely and not cutting corners to save time, welding need not be a dangerous activity.