Best Practices for Arc Welding Safety

A welder’s job can be dangerous in more ways than what would appear to be evident.  Not only are there immediate injuries, like burns, but there are also injuries that can develop over time. 

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) is created by an electric arc while you are welding.  If your skin is exposed to UV, you can be severely burned.  UV exposure can also damage the lens of the eye, which can lead to what is called “arc-eye.” Arc-eye is a condition in which you constantly feel as though there is sand in your eye. Another type of hazard created by the electric arc is Infrared Radiation (IR). IR can heat the surface of the skin as well as the tissues just below the skin, which can lead to thermal burns. Arc welding also exposes you to intense light and this can result in a variety of injuries, including damage to the retinas of your eyes.

That is why it is so important that you are properly clothed and protected from the heat, ultra-violet rays and infrared rays produced by the arc welder. To protect your torso, you should wear a pair of fire retardant long sleeved coveralls without cuffs. Do not wear clothing with tears, snags, rips, or worn spots because sparks can easily ignite them. Keep your sleeves and collars buttoned at all times while you are welding. Your hands should be protected with leather gauntlet gloves. Protect your feet by wearing a pair of high top leather shoes, preferably safety shoes. If you do wear low shoes, fire resistant leggings should be worn around your ankles.

Your eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of your body when you are welding, so wear transparent goggles to protect them. In addition, it is mandatory that you wear a welding helmet or hand shield with filter plate and cover plate to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the arc. Never use a helmet if the filter plate or cover lens is cracked or broken. A flameproof skullcap to protect the hair and head and hearing protection for the noise are also good practices.

Plastic disposable cigarette lighters are very dangerous around heat and flame. It is very important that you don’t carry them in your pockets while you are welding.

The work you are welding should be placed on a firebrick surface at a height that is comfortable for you. You should never weld directly on a concrete floor. Heat from the arc can cause steam to build-up in the floor, which could result in an explosion. Place the welder cables in a spot where sparks and molten metal won’t fall on them. They should also be kept free of grease and oil.

Avoid welding on steel or other metals that conduct electricity. But if you must, be sure you are standing on an insulating mat to prevent electric shock. If the area you are welding in is wet or damp or you are perspiring heavily, you should wear rubber gloves under the welding gloves to decrease the chance of being shocked.

Metal should always be thoroughly cleaned with a wire brush before welding. When chipping slag or wire brushing the finished bead, be sure to protect your eyes and body from flying debris. Unused electrodes and electrode stubs should never be left on the floor. Always handle hot metal with metal tongs or pliers.

When cooling hot metal in water it should be done carefully to prevent being burned from the escaping steam. Any metal left to cool should be carefully marked “HOT” with a soapstone. When you have finished working for the day, electrodes should be removed from the holder. The holder should be placed where no one can accidentally come in contact with it and the welder should be disconnected from its power source.

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