Welding can exposes everyone to similar hazards, whether you're responsible for safety at a large, welding-intensive manufacturing company, a multi-million pound engineering-construction firm or a small independent fabricator. Here are five tips for improving welding safety in your company, including advice that also improves productivity.
1. Read the manual
A welder’s operating manual contains important safety guidelines, as well as information regarding procedures that help maximise the machine’s capabilities. Make sure everyone who operates the machine is familiar with its contents. If the manual becomes lost or damaged, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Many manufacturers provide manuals online to download and print.
2. Cover up
Any exposed skin is at risk to the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, the welding arc, spatter, sparks and heat. Sparks can catch in open pockets, trouser cuffs or down a shirt that isn’t completely fastened. Make sure all exposed areas are covered and protected from all the potential dangers. Ensure your personal protective equipment including face and eye protection is CE approved to the standard required for maximum protection.
3. Breathe clean air
Fumes and smoke produced during welding pose a serious health hazard. When welding in confined spaces, toxic fumes can build up, or shielding gasses may replace breathable air. Fume extraction at source or fixed fume extraction equipment is needed to remove fumes from the area and ensure enough clean air is available. Some materials specifically require respirators when welding. Consult the manufacturer’s safety data sheet, your welding engineer or industrial safety specialist for correct procedures. See www.badairday.info
4. Avoid seeing the light
It only takes a moment of exposure to a welding arc’s rays for unprotected eyes to experience “arc eye,” a painful condition that may not appear until hours after the exposure. Welding helmets should be fitted with a proper filter shade to protect the operator’s face and eyes when welding or watching. Approved safety glasses and ear protection should also be worn under the helmet. Install welding screens where appropriate to protect others from the hazards of the arc.
5. Auto-darkening helmets
The sensors on an auto-darkening helmet darken the lens in a fraction of a second. All auto-darkening helmets should meet EN 175B and EN 379 standards. ADF helmets react at speeds of 1/10,000 to 1/20,000 of a second and have adjustable shades settings from shade 9 to 13 for welding. ADF helmets also have adjustable sensitivity (useful for low amperage welding) and delay controls to adjust how long the lens stays dark after the arc stops. Also see ‘choosing the right welding helmet’.