Welding is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The welding process brings with it inherent safety hazards which, without carefully considered control measures in place, could severely affect the health and safety of employees.
The main welding safety hazards which affect nearly all welding scenarios include:
- respiratory conditions
- burns and UV radiation
- fire and explosion
- electric shock
Respiratory conditions caused by welding
Welding fumes have the potential to cause asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. Employers must ensure welders understand the risks and mitigate them through a variety of measures which include; good ventilation, PPE and RPE and using alternative cold joining techniques.
Not only is the welding process noisy but, often, welding takes place in busy, noisy manufacturing and engineering environments. Workers should not be exposed to noise above 85 decibels without hearing protection.
Burns & UV radiation
Welding burns can be caused by direct contact with a heat source or by exposure to UV radiation, sometimes referred to as “welding sunburn”. Welding PPE is the best way to prevent both types of burns. Welding helmets, safety goggles, leather jackets, welding aprons, bibs and flame resistant jackets should prevent burns. A thorough risk assessment of the welding area should also consider the risk of heat source and radiation exposure to other workers.
Fire & explosion
Intense heat, welding sparks and molten metals all pose significant fire risk. Fine dust particles which may be present in and around the welding area can easily catch alight without any warning. An inspection of the work area prior to commencing welding should avoid most fires and explosions. Welding should never be undertaken without appropriate fire extinguishing equipment (hoses, fire extinguishers, sand buckets etc) nearby.
Live electrical circuits are used in arc welding to melt metal which makes electrocution a serious risk. This risk is further increased in damp conditions, when welding on a metal structure or when cramped in a confined space. To mitigate this risk welders should ensure all cables and lead insultation is undamaged, equipment conforms to ISO and BS standards and appropriate PPE is used.