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Welding Safety Isn’t Rocket Science

Welding Safety Isn’t Rocket Science

Welding safety isn’t too hard to figure out, but it does require some planning and an investment in the right safety gear. Welders work in a variety of positions and locations, so be sure to review these safety steps to stay safe while welding:

A Stable Work Surface

Before you even strike your first arc, make sure you’re welding on a stable surface that is safe, will support your metal, and provides a steady ground. If you’re working on a welding cart of some sort, make sure the wheels are locked into position and that you’re welding at a safe distance from other machines and materials that could be damaged.

In addition, take note of the floor in your shop. Is it smooth and stable? Are there divots or cracks that could send your table off balance?

Non-Flammable Clothing

Besides not keeping a lighter in your breast pocket, your clothing itself should also be non-flammable material such as cotton. Any kind of synthetic blend will catch a spark and catch on fire much faster than cotton, which can be easily snuffed out. You can pick up welding jackets and aprons that provide more protection while welding, but the most basic place to start is with cotton clothing.

If you’re working in a colder climate, a leather welding jacket will be effective for protecting your skin and keeping you warm while you work.

Besides the natural protection you get from sparks while welding, long sleeves are also important for protecting yourself from harmful UV rays that are emitted while welding. In fact, you can give yourself a particularly nasty sun burn if you don’t take the right safety steps to cover your skin while welding.

Welding Safety Gear

The basics for welding safety include a welding helmet and welding gloves along with a long sleeved shirt, pants, and heavy duty work boots. Most welders prefer auto-darkening welding helmets that make it easy to strike an arc right on target without having to mess with dropping a helmet into position. The higher priced helmets will give you more sensors and faster response time to flashes, protecting your eyes and keeping you on the job.

Choosing the right welding gloves will boil down to weighing how much flexibility you need and how much protection you need from heat. Some welding gloves also provide protection along your wrists with a “gauntlet” design that is great for stick welding or MIG welding out of position where sparks can fall down your arms.

A Dry Area

It’s commonsense that water and welding could lead to a life-ending jolt of electricity, but many welders underestimate how much water it could take to cause that shock. It really doesn’t take much. A puddle at the wrong spot and at the wrong time could prove particularly deadly to an unsuspecting welder.

Properly Stored Gas and Oxygen Cylinders

Besides keeping your shielding gas and oxygen cylinders away from sparks, they need to kept in safe, upright positions that will ensure they don’t bang around or get dented. A dent and a spark could mean a huge explosion.

If you’re working with oxy-acetylene, you’ll have plenty of safety concerns since it’s an extremely volatile gas. While it’s an effective way to cut metal, you’ll need to spend time making sure that your cylinders are securely stored and have proper regulators and valves in place.

If you have smaller cylinders of cutting gas in your tool box, take them out immediately, as they could be punctured at any time, and the last thing you want is an exploding tool box that will send all kinds of metal scraps into your workplace.

Welding with Sufficient Ventilation

Welding can give off fumes and when you weld with a MIG or TIG welder, you’ll most likely use Argon as your shielding gas. When you replace Oxygen with Argon, you’ll be unable to breathe and will pose a hazard to yourself and to anyone else who enters the room after you. Whether you use a fan in the window or use a ventilation system, make sure there is a steady flow of air in your
workspace. You can also pick up screens that you can set up in your garage so that you can weld with the door open.

A Workspace Free from Flammable Materials

Whether a fire breaks out while you’re welding or after you’re welding, taking stock of your location is a critical part of welding safety. Are there other welders working nearby? Are there cardboard boxes or piles of sawdust that could catch fire if a spark hits them? Many welding fires are caused hours after the welder is done—often in the middle of the night. Sparks from welding sit in piles of sawdust and slowly smolder into flames and cause unexpected and costly fires.


Ed C.


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