Gas Welding and Cutting Safety
Gas welding and cutting are processes which use oxygen and fuel gases to cut and weld metals. The method was first used by French engineers in 1903. Pure oxygen is used and increases the flame temperature, allowing the localized melting of materials in a room. Propane/air flames burn at around 3,630 ℉ while a propane/oxygen flame will burn at around 4,530 ℉. Acetylene/oxygen flames are also often used and burn at around 6,330 ℉. With temperatures like this, it is easy to see that gas welding and cutting safety should be every welders concern.
Gas welding and cutting is not as popular in industrial applications as it once was. It is widely used for pipe welding, tube welding, and in repair work. Many welders who make metal-based artwork use gas welding and cutting. The reason that it is popular among smaller shops and artists is that the equipment is inexpensive when compared to other welding and cutting equipment, is easy to move, and it is easy to find the supplies that are needed. However, because it is widely used and so easy to use, some welders become careless when they are working. They take risks and shortcuts that they shouldn't take, and serious injury and sometimes death can result.
The equipment consists of two cylinders – oxygen and a fuel gas – and a hose for each cylinder. Two pressure regulators and a torch are also part of the equipment. The cylinders are usually secured to a wheeled trolley to help prevent them from tilting over, lessening the risk of an explosion. Non-return valves and flashback arrestors should be used to help prevent the flames and gases from being pushed back up the torched in a flashback and reaching the cylinder, causing an explosion. Check valves help keep welders safe by allow gas to flow in only one direction.
Gas welding and cutting safety is a very serious issue that should never be neglected, no matter how small and fast a job seems.
Welding goggles should be worn at all times. This is to protect the eyes from flying sparks and glare. The goggles also allow the welder to see through the flames so that they can tell what they are doing. The goggles protect against ultraviolet, infrared, blue light, and impact. Welders can buy different goggles to protect their eyes as needed depending on what they are doing.
The flexible hoses can become damaged and leak fuel gases. Denser gases, such as propane and butane, will collect in lower areas, such as basements, sinks, and even storm drains. Care must be taken to avoid explosions, because if enough gas collects, a welder could easily find themselves in the middle of a fire or explosion. Fittings that have gas leaking around them can also explode or catch fire while they are in use.
Cylinders must be securely fastened in an upright position to a portable cart or a wall. Oxygen tanks are under extreme pressure and can become deadly missiles if the valve is knocked off. Oxygen tanks can even break through brick walls and must never be moved if the valve cap is not screwed in place. Gas in cylinders or tanks is also stored at high pressure and the regulator changes the high pressured gas to low pressure. Never attempt to use gas if it that means using it at high pressure.
Welders can also become exposed to chemicals. These chemicals can come from protective coatings, fuel, and even the workpiece itself. Some can lead to severe medical problems. Increased ventilation in the welding area minimizes the exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals.
Gas welding and cutting safety is not something that can be ignored. Following precautions and procedures greatly reduces the risk welders take whenever they work on a welding or cutting project with gas equipment.
More Welding Safety Resources
- Proper Welding Gear and Safety Tips
- What You Need to Weld at Home
- What Welders Need to Know About Gas Cylinders
Picture Credit: Gooden's Welding
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