Processes and Hazards



Welding is a general term for various processes used to join metal parts by producing a coalescence, called a weld, at a joint. This is usually done by applying heat and energy when bringing the pieces of metal together.

Welding has many applications. Some welded products include ships, aircraft, automobiles, electric and electronic parts, and in building and construction work. Although over 50 welding processes are used today, the most common are gas welding and arc welding.

Welding is a hazardous process that joins materials together by melting a metal workpiece and a filler metal to form a strong joint.


Coalescence occurs when two metals seem to pull together, or grow into one body, of the base metal parts when there is the slightest contact. There are two basic requirements for coalescence: heat and intimacy of contact.


Welding processes differ depending on the source of heat, how heat is applied or generated, and the intensity of the heat. The fuel used as a heat force may be:

  • acetylene or hydrogen in air or in oxygen;
  • an electric arc;
  • an electric, gas, or oil furnace;
  • the resistance of metal to the flow of electric current; or
  • a chemical reaction between a metal oxide and finely divided aluminum.

The intensity of heat applied or generated at the joint varies according to the metals being joined and the welding process used. All welding processes, except brazing, use temperatures high enough to melt the base metals. However, all welding, cutting, and brazing processes generate enough heat to injure workers seriously.

Intimacy of Contact

The second basic requirement for coalescence, the intimacy of contact, is accomplished in two ways: pressure processes and non-pressure processes. In pressure processes, there is no space between the surfaces being joined. Welders apply pressure while the contact surfaces are at a high enough temperature to allow the plastic flow of the metal. In non-pressure processes, the space between the joined surfaces is filled with molten metal.

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1. Which of the following occurs when two metals seem to pull together, or grow into one body, of the base metal parts when there is the slightest contact?

a. Melding
b. Coalescence
c. Phosphorescence
d. Penetration
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Gas Welding

Oxyacetylene Welding/Cutting

Oxyacetylene welding or cutting is also called torch or gas welding or cutting. Two metals are joined by melting or fusing their adjoining surfaces in the process. This is done by directing a flame from burning gas (usually acetylene) to melt metal at a joint to be welded, and is a common method for welding iron, steel, cast iron, and copper.

Oxyacetylene Cylinders

Oxyacetylene equipment consists of a cylinder of acetylene, a cylinder of oxygen, two regulators, two lengths of hose with fittings, a welding torch with tips, and a cutting attachment or a separate cutting torch.

Accessories include a friction igniter to light the torch, an apparatus wrench to fit the various connections on the regulators, the cylinders, and the torches; goggles with filter lenses for eye protection; and gloves for protection of the hands. Flame-resistant clothing is worn when necessary.


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Reduce the gas pressure in a cylinder to a suitable working pressure before it can be used. This is done by a regulator or reducing valve. Regulators are either the single-stage or the double-stage type:

  • Single-stage regulators reduce the pressure of the gas in one step;
  • Two-stage regulators do the same job in two steps or stages. Less adjustment is generally necessary when using two-stage regulators.

Acetylene regulators and oxygen regulators are of the same general type. However, those designed for acetylene are not made to withstand such high pressures as those designed for oxygen cylinders.

2. Which gas is usually burned when gas or torch welding?

a. Gasoline
b. Oxygen
c. Acetylene
d. Nitrogen

Welding Torches

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Welding torches. Click to Enlarge

The oxyacetylene welding torch is used to mix oxygen and acetylene gas in the proper proportions and control the volume of these gases burned at the welding tip.

  • Torches have two needle valves, one for adjusting the flow of oxygen and the other for adjusting the flow of acetylene.
  • They have a handle (body), two tubes (one for oxygen and one for acetylene), a mixing head, and a tip.
  • Welding tips are made from a special copper alloy, which dissipates heat (less than 60 percent copper), and are available in different sizes to handle a wide range of plate thicknesses.


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Oxygen and acetylene hoses.

Hoses used to connect torches and regulators are strong, nonporous, flexible, and light enough to make torch movements easy. It is made to withstand high internal pressures, and the rubber used to manufacture it is specially treated to remove sulfur to avoid the danger of spontaneous combustion.

The hoses used for acetylene and oxygen are the same in grade, but they differ in color and have different types of threads on the hose fittings. The color codes are as follows:

  • The oxygen hose is GREEN.
  • The acetylene hose is RED.

For added protection against mixing of the hoses during connection:

  • The oxygen hose has right-hand threads and the acetylene hose has left-hand threads.
  • The acetylene fittings have a notch that goes around fittings' circumference for an additional identification factor.

3. Oxyacetylene equipment has two hoses: the oxygen hose is _____and the acetylene hose is _____.

a. blue, orange
b. green, red
c. red, green
d. orange, blue

Electric Arc Welding and Cutting

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Arc welding on a pipeline.

Arc welding is the process in which fusion is produced by heating with an electric arc that is generated between an electrode and the surface of the base metal.

Arc cutting is when metals are cut or removed by melting with the heat of an arc between an electrode and base metal.

In electric welding, electrodes form a part of the electrical circuit. In gas tungsten arc welding, electrodes melt off and are a source of the filler metal supply.

  • Solid Electrodes- These electrodes are consumable (composed of steel, copper, aluminum, various alloys, and other metals) or non-consumable (primarily tungsten). They produce fewer fumes compared with flux-cored wire or coated electrodes.
  • Covered and Coated Electrodes- These are the largest group of electrodes used in welding. The covering provides the flux from the weld. Major metals from the coatings include fluoride, nickel, iron, chromium, manganese, copper, and molybdenum.
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Brazing copper pipe.

Overexposure to these substances can cause injury and illness over the long-term.

For more information on arc welding, read Safe Arc Welding by Lincoln Electric.


Brazing is a welding process using nonferrous filler alloys that do not contain iron or steel and have a melting point above 840°F but below that of the base metal. Brazing is also called "Hard Soldering" or "Silver Soldering."

Brazing is the only welding process in which the melting of the base melting the base metal is unnecessary for coalescence. Coalescence occurs when two metals seem to pull together or grow into one body, of the base metal parts when there is the slightest contact. Click here for more information on brazing alloys.


Soldering is a joining process using non-ferrous filler alloys. Soft soldering uses alloys that melt between 190°F to 840°F and is used in electronics, plumbing, and joining sheet metal parts. Lead and tin are common alloys used in soldering; however, there are also less common lead-free solder alloys used to decrease environmental impacts.

4. In electric welding, electrodes _____.

a. create nonferrous filler alloys
b. form a part of the electrical circuit
c. must be properly grounded to earth
d. fuse together to form two metals

Welding Defects

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Defects in welds can cause unforeseen injuries and accidents. Common weld defects to be familiar with to ensure your safety include:

  • Incomplete fusion: Incomplete fusion occurs when the weld fails to fuse one side of the joint in the root. The most common type of incomplete fusion is overlap.
  • Inadequate joint and root penetration: Inadequate joint and root penetration is cause for rejection of a weld even if it is sound in all other respects. The strength required in a weldment is achieved only when the specified joint and root penetration is achieved.
  • Spatter: Spatter is the term used to describe metal particles or globules expelled during welding and do not form part of the weld. When spatter occurs, small balls of metal are stuck to the base metal's surface along the line of a weld.
  • incomplete fusion
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  • Overlap: Overlap is a protrusion of the weld metal beyond the bond at the toe of the weld. This is the most common type of incomplete fusion.
  • Undercut: An undercut is a groove melted into the base metal adjacent to the toe and not filled with weld metal.
  • Root cracks: Root cracks are similar to toe cracks except that they occur at the root of the weld. Root cracks may be in the weld metal or in the base metal.
  • Toe cracks: Toe cracks occur in the base metal, at the toe of the weld.
  • Crater cracks: One common kind of crack is the crater crack. This occurs in the crater or depression at the termination of a weld bead in gas or arc welding.
  • Underbead cracks: Underbead cracks occur in the heat-affected zone underneath a bead and do not extend to the metal's surface.
  • Voids: Voids, also called gas pockets or blowholes, occur due to gas being absorbed during the welding and then trapped as the metal solidifies.
  • Inclusions: Slag inclusion is the term used to describe the weld defect in which non-metallic solid material is trapped in the weld metal or at the bond between the weld metal and the base metal.
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toe cracks
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underbed cracks
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5. What is the most common type of incomplete fusion during a weld?

a. Inclusions
b. Toe cracks
c. Voids
d. Overlap

Welding Hazards

Protecting yourself when performing welding operations depends on your understanding of the hazards involved and the proper way to control them. Controlling welding hazards includes avoiding eye injury, respiratory protection, ventilation of the work area, protective clothing, and having safe equipment to use.

Welding Safety – Texas A&M FabLab

Gas Welding Hazards

Gas welding is commonly used in general maintenance work, brazing, and soldering because it is slower and easier to control than electric arc welding.


Oxyacetylene equipment consists of a cylinder of acetylene, a cylinder of oxygen, two regulators, two lengths of hose with fittings, a welding torch with tips, and either a cutting attachment or a separate cutting torch. Accessories include a friction igniter to light the torch, an apparatus wrench to fit the various connections on the regulators, the cylinders, and the torches; goggles with filter lenses for eye protection; and gloves for protection of the hands. Flame-resistant clothing is worn when necessary.


Acetylene (chemical formula C2H2) is a fuel gas made up of carbon and hydrogen. When burned with oxygen, acetylene produces a very hot flame, having a temperature between 5700°F and 6300°F. Acetylene gas is colorless, but has a distinct, easily recognized odor.


MAPP (methylacetylene-propadiene) gas is an all-purpose industrial fuel with the high flame temperature of acetylene and the handling characteristics of propane.

  • MAPP is not sensitive to shock and nonflammable in the absence of oxygen. There is no chance of an explosion if a cylinder is bumped, jarred, or dropped. The cylinders may be stored or transported in any position with no danger of an explosive air pocket being formed.
  • MAPP toxicity is rated “very slight,” but high concentrations (5,000 ppm) may have an anesthetic effect. Local eye or skin contact with MAPP gas vapor causes no adverse effect. However, the liquid fuel will cause dangerous frostlike burns due to the temperature at which MAPP gas should be stored.


Oxygen is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that is slightly heavier than air. Oxygen will not burn by itself, but it will support combustion when combined with other gases.

  • Take extreme care to ensure compressed oxygen does not become contaminated with hydrogen or hydrocarbon gases or liquids.
  • A highly explosive mixture will form if uncontrolled compressed oxygen becomes contaminated. Oxygen should NEVER come in contact with oil or grease.
  • Oxygen cylinders are supplied in several sizes. The size most commonly used 9 1/8 inches in diameter, weighs about 145 pounds, and has a capacity of 200 cubic feet. At 70°F, the gas is under a pressure of 1800 psi.

6. Why is gas welding preferred for general maintenance work, brazing, and soldering?

a. It is slower and easier to work with
b. It is safer than using electricity due to flashback
c. The risk of explosion is less then in electrical arc welding
d. Arc welding is less precise and harder to control

Arc Welding Hazards and Precautions

The 5 Most Common Welding Hazards

Safe procedures and practices must always be used when working around or with arc welding equipment to avoid injuries.

Avoid the following hazards in arc welding:

  • radiation from the arc, in the form of ultraviolet and infrared rays
  • flying sparks and globules of molten metal
  • electric shock
  • metal fumes
  • burns


Radiation from the arc is hazardous to the eyes. Eyes should be protected from radiation from the arc by use of an arc welding helmet or face shield with approved lenses.

  • Cover the face, hands, arms, and other skin surfaces to prevent exposure to the radiation.
  • Gloves should be worn and other parts of the body covered by clothing of sufficient weight to shut out the arc's rays.
  • Without proper clothing, burns comparable to sunburn will result.

Arc Flash

When possible, shield arc-welding operations so no one may accidentally look directly at the arc or have it shine or reflect into his or her eyes.

  • An arc "flash" may cause a person to be temporarily blinded.
  • The severity of an arc flash and the time to recover vary with a person’s exposure to the arc.
  • Prolonged exposure to arc flashes is known to cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye.
  • If someone is severely “flashed,” medical personnel should provide special treatment at once.

7. Why must eye protection be used during arc welding?

a. To prevent first-degree sun burns on the face
b. To prevent late-stage skin cancer
c. To prevent damage to the retina of the eye
d. To prevent permanent color blindness or cataracts

Arc Welding Hazards and Precautions (Continued)

Electric Arc Welding Safety – Jason Lin

Electric Shock

Avoid the possibility of dangerous electric shock by using insulated electrode holders and wearing dry leathers and gloves.

  • When possible, avoid using arc-welding equipment in wet or damp areas.
  • Perform arc-welding only in well-ventilated areas.

Flying Sparks and Molten Metal

Flying sparks usually accompany arc welding. These present a hazard if they strike unprotected skin, lodge on flammable clothing, or hit any other flammable material.

  • When arc welding, wear suitable weight clothing and cuffless trousers.
  • Cover pockets so they will not collect sparks, and remove any flammable materials, such as matches or gas lighters.
  • Wear the proper foot protection. Wear high top boots with steel toes.

8. Which of the following is an UNSAFE work practice when welding?

a. Covering pockets so they won't collect sparks
b. Wearing cuffed trousers
c. Not working in wet or damp areas
d. Arc welding in well-ventilated spaces

Arc Welding Hazards and Precautions (Continued)

Welding PPE Case Study

Hot Metal and Burns

Hot metal and flying sparks have the potential to cause severe burns. Never handle it with bare hands until it has cooled naturally or has quenched in the quenching tank.

Be sure to use leather gloves with tight-fitting cuffs that fit over the sleeves of the jacket. Many welders wear a full set of leathers that consists of the following:

  • a jacket or set of sleeves
  • gauntlet gloves
  • leggings
  • spats
  • apron
  • welders hat liner

In gas welding, the high temperatures of the welding flame and the sparks will burn skin. Gas welding can also cause radiation burns due to infrared rays emitted by the red-hot material. Wear flame-resistant or flame-retardant clothing and hair protection at all times.

Real-World Accident

An employee was tasked to pin weld the inside insulation of the metal duct and wipe the surface with a propanol solution for shipment. The employee noticed that one pin weld of the duct failed. He decided to replace the defective pin. When he drove a new weld, the sparks from the weld ignited the propanol's residue on his glove. His right hand caught fire and caused second-degree burns.

9. Why are welders encouraged to wear a full set of leathers?

a. To protect against flying sparks and contact with hot metal
b. To remove the need to change clothes after work
c. To prevent being sunburn from ultraviolet light
d. To help stay cool during welding operations

Welding Hazards and Precautions (Continued)

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Welding produces fumes that can result in illness.

Fumes and Gases

Fumes produced during welding are composed of very small, easily inhaled solid particles, produced by the heat generated when welding consumables, base metals, and base metal coatings.

Shielding gases (argon, helium, carbon dioxide, etc.) may be used to protect and enhance the properties of the weld. They may present a health hazard by displacing oxygen that can result in the welding experiencing dizziness, unconsciousness, and death.

Process gases (nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, phosgene, hydrogen fluoride, and carbon dioxide) may also be a byproduct of the welding process itself.

Welding fumes and gases generally come from the following sources:

  • base material being welded or the filler material used
  • coatings and paints on the metal or electrode coatings;
  • shielding gases supplied from cylinders;
  • chemical reactions due to ultraviolet light of the arc and heat; and
  • contaminants in the air from cleaners and degreasers.

Click on the button to review the various health hazards of breathing welding fumes and gases.

  • Acute exposure to welding fume and gases can result in eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea. Workers in the area who experience these symptoms should leave the area immediately, seek fresh air and obtain medical attention.
  • Prolonged exposure to welding fume may cause lung damage and various types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract.
  • Health effects from certain fumes may include metal fume fever, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and nervous system damage. Prolonged exposure to manganese fume can cause Parkinson’s–like symptoms.
  • Gases such as helium, argon, and carbon dioxide displace oxygen in the air and can lead to suffocation, particularly when welding in confined or enclosed spaces. Carbon monoxide gas can form, posing a serious asphyxiation hazard.

10. What are composed of very small, easily inhaled solid particles, produced by the heat generated when welding consumables, base metals, and base metal coatings?

a. Inert gases
b. Process gases
c. Fumes
d. Shielding gases

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