Welding Safe Work Practices and PPE
The Welding Location
The first consideration for safety in welding is the location and peculiarities of the space in which the welding operation is to be performed.
Weld or cut only in locations specifically designated for this purpose unless you have obtained approval of the job and have taken the necessary precautions to eliminate fire
and explosion hazards.
Do not weld in any location outside the shop unless you take the necessary precautions and get authorization. Before you weld in any compartment, room, tank, or adjacent space
which contains or which has contained flammable or explosive materials, liquids, or vapors, make sure they are:
- made safe,
- tested, and
- proclaimed safe.
These restrictions also apply to closed drums, tanks, and similar containers.
Welding Safety 101 - ChuckE2009
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Allow welding or cutting only in areas that are or have been made "fire safe."
- When you cannot move work practically, as in most construction work, the area must be made safe by removing combustibles or protecting combustibles from ignition sources.
- If you cannot remove fire hazards, install suitable guards, or take special precautions as discussed below, then welding and cutting should not be performed.
- If you cannot move the object to be welded or cut and if not all the fire hazards can be removed, use guards to confine the heat, sparks, and slag, and to protect the
immovable fire hazards.
Do not permit welding or cutting in the following situations:
- in areas not authorized by management
- in sprinklered buildings while such protection is impaired
- in the presence of explosive atmospheres (mixtures of flammable gases, vapors, liquids, or dust with air)
- inside uncleaned or improperly prepared tanks or equipment which have previously contained such explosive atmospheres or have the potential for explosive atmospheres
- in areas with an accumulation of combustible dust
- in areas near the storage of large quantities of exposed, readily ignitable materials such as bulk sulfur, baled paper, or cotton
Fire Prevention and Protection
Eliminate fire and explosion hazards by removing or reducing combustible or explosive materials or vapors by preventing them from accumulating. The methods for making a
space safe for welding and the tests used to ensure a space is free of fire and explosion hazards should be the responsibility of a welding supervisor.
Special Precautions for Fire Prevention
Combustible material: Wherever there are floor openings or cracks in the flooring that you cannot close, you should take precautions so no readily
combustible materials on the floor below is exposed to sparks that might drop through the floor. Use the same precautions for cracks or holes in walls, open doorways and open
or broken windows.
Combustible covers: Never weld on a metal partition, wall, ceiling or roof having a combustible covering nor on walls or partitions of combustible
sandwich-type panel construction.
Relocation of combustibles: If possible, relocate all combustibles at least 35 feet (10.7 m) from the work site. When relocation is not possible:
- protect combustibles with flame-proofed covers, or
- shield combustibles with metal or asbestos guards or curtains.
Floors: Where combustible materials such as paper clippings, wood shavings, or textile fibers are on the floor, sweep the floor clean within a radius of 35
feet (10.7 m). In addition:
- If floors are combustible, keep them wet, covered with damp sand, or protected by fire-resistant shields.
- Protect workers operating arc welding or cutting equipment from shock where floors have been wet down.
Ducts: Protect or shut down ducts and conveyor systems that might carry sparks to distant combustibles.
Combustible walls: Where cutting or welding is done near walls, partitions, ceiling or roof of combustible construction, provide fire-resistant shields or
guards to prevent ignition.
Non-combustible walls: If you need to do welding on a metal wall, partition, ceiling or roof, prevent ignition of combustibles on the other side, preferably
by relocating combustibles. Where you are not able to relocate the combustibles, be sure to provide a fire watch on the opposite side from the work.
Pipes: Do not cut or weld on pipes or other metal in contact with combustible walls, partitions, ceilings or roofs if the work is close enough to cause
ignition by conduction.
Fire extinguishers: Position suitable fire extinguishing equipment and maintain it in a state of readiness for instant use. Depending on the nature and
quantity of the combustible material, fire-extinguishing equipment may consist of:
- pails of water,
- buckets of sand,
- hoses, or
- portable extinguishers.
Welding with a fire watch nearby.
Hot work is any work that involves burning, welding, using fire- or spark-producing tools or that produces a source of ignition. Follow these general best practices below for
- Do not perform hot work where flammable vapors or combustible materials exist.
- Relocate work and equipment outside of the hazardous areas, when possible.
- Make suitable fire-extinguishing equipment immediately available in a state of readiness. The equipment may consist of pails of water, buckets of sand, hose, or portable
extinguishers dependent upon the nature and quantity of the combustible material exposed.
- When performing hot work, assign a fire watch to guard.
A worker designated as the "Fire Watch" is required whenever welding or cutting is performed in locations where other than a minor fire might develop, or any of the following conditions exist:
- Appreciable combustible material, in building construction or contents, closer than 35 feet (10.7 m) to the point of operation.
- Appreciable combustibles are more than 35 feet (10.7 m) away but are easily ignited by sparks.
- Wall or floor openings within a 35-foot (10.7 m) radius expose combustible material in adjacent areas including concealed spaces in walls or floors.
- Combustible materials are adjacent to the opposite side of metal partitions, walls, ceilings, or roofs and are likely to be ignited by conduction or radiation.
Dangers of Hot Work – CSB.
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Fire Watch Duties
The duties of a qualified fire watch include:
- They must have fire-extinguishing equipment readily available.
- Train them in how to use fire-extinguishing equipment.
- They must be familiar with facilities for sounding an alarm in the event of fire.
- They must watch for fires in all exposed areas, try to extinguish them only when obviously within the capacity of the equipment available, or otherwise sound the alarm.
- They must maintain a fire watch for at least 30 minutes ( to meet OSHA requirements) or 60 minutes (to meet NFPA requirements) after completion of welding or cutting operations to detect and extinguish possible smoldering fires.
Welding or Cutting Containers
Drum Explodes During Welding, Killing Worker – WorksafeBC.
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Do not weld, cut, or perform other hot work on used drums, barrels, tanks or other containers until you clean them.
- Clean them so thoroughly to make absolutely certain there are no flammable materials present or any substances such as greases, tars, acids, or other materials which when
subjected to heat, might produce flammable or toxic vapors.
- Disconnect or blanket any pipelines or connections to the drum or vessel.
Venting and Purging
Vent all hollow spaces, cavities or containers to permit air or gases to escape before preheating, cutting or welding. You should purge with inert gas.
Safe Welding and Cutting - ESAB
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Cutting Hazards and Precautions
Another part of the welder’s job involves cutting operations such as oxyacetylene cutting and plasma arc cutting. Observe these safety precautions when performing any
- Never place hands or fingers between the metal plate and the bed.
- Never place hands under the hold-downs or knife.
- Ensure all personnel is clear from the piece being cut.
- Support the plate to avoid injuries to workers if the cut end of the metal falls away.
- When using oxyacetylene cutting equipment, ensure that the work area is gas-free. This is particularly important when working in bilges and other spaces where dangerous
vapors may collect.
- Always post a fire watch to protect the surrounding areas and personnel. The high-pressure oxygen stream used in cutting with an oxyacetylene torch can throw molten metal
for a distance of 50 to 60 feet.
- When using oxyacetylene cutting equipment, remove and tag out any interfering systems, if necessary.
- Install all covers, insulators, and handles before attempting to operate the plasma arc cutting equipment.
- When using plasma arc cutting equipment, open all primary disconnect switches before charging any electrical connections.
Brazing and Soldering Hazards and Precautions
Brazing copper pipes.
Cadmium and Beryllium
Brazing and soldering with or on alloys containing cadmium or beryllium can be extremely hazardous because the fumes are extremely
toxic and can cause death.
- Always avoid skin contact with cadmium and beryllium.
- Consult an expert in industrial hygiene whenever using cadmium or beryllium compounds or when performing repairs on parts containing the metals.
Fluxes containing fluoride compounds are also toxic. Good ventilation is essential when soldering or brazing and the operator should
always observe good safety practices.
A common hazard when soldering is exposure of the skin, eyes, and clothing to acid fluxes. Be sure to observe these safety precautions when brazing
- Always work in a way that flux will not be spilled on the skin or clothing.
- Always wear chemical splash-proof goggles, rubber gloves, and long sleeves when using cleaning solutions, pickling solutions, or acids.
- If you are exposed to any chemical solutions, acids, or fluxes, wash the affected area at once, and seek medical attention immediately.
- Remove or keep away all flammable material from the heating flames. Remember, heating soldering copper sometimes presents a fire hazard if an open flame is used.
- When performing hot work, make sure there are no flammable vapors present, such as gasoline, acetylene, or other flammable gases.
- Do NOT start a job until you have taken all safety precautions and the fire marshal notified, if applicable.
Burns are a common welding injury.
A wound is another problem that could be the result of an electrical shock. Welders could accidentally suffer an electrical shock, which could cause a loss of balance. This
could result in a minor or serious injury. Because workplace injuries can occur, you should know the basics of first aid.
Wounds are classified according to their general condition, size, location, how the skin or tissue is broken, and the agent that caused the wound.
The causes of burns are generally classified as thermal, electrical, chemical, or radiation. Whatever the cause, shock always results if the burns are
extensive. The four types of common burns experienced by welders include:
- Thermal burns are caused by exposure to intense heat, such as that generated by fire, bomb flash, sunlight, hot liquids, hot solids, and hot gases. Their
care depends upon the severity of the burn and the percentage of the body area involved.
- Electrical burns: Electric current passing through tissues or the superficial wound caused by electrical flash causes electrical burns. They may be far more
serious than they first appear. The entrance wound may be small; but as electricity penetrates the skin, it burns a large area below the surface. Usually there are two external
burn areas: one where the current enters the body and another where it leaves.
- Chemical burns are generally not caused by heat, but by the direct chemical destruction of body tissues. When acids, alkalis, or other chemicals come in
contact with the skin or other body membranes, they can cause injuries generally referred to as chemical burns. The extremities, mouth, and eyes are the areas that are most
often affected. Alkali burns are usually more serious than acid burns because they penetrate longer.
- Radiation burns are the result of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation. First- and second-degree burns may develop. Treatment is essentially the same
as that for thermal burns.
If it is necessary for a welding operator to work on platforms, scaffolds, or runways at an elevation of more than 4 feet, fall protection is required. To accomplish this, use railings, safety belts, lifelines, or some other equally effective safeguards.
In 2014, a worker was engaged in welding while positioned on a mast scaffold. He finished working in one area, unhooked his fall protection safety device, a
double lanyard, and began to transit from the west end of the scaffold. According to witnesses, he tripped over the welder. He fell downward feet first, hitting the small welding
platform and then an extended part of the building called a "bumpout." The area that he fell through was 14 feet long and 55 inches from the building. He then fell to the asphalt
surface below, which was a fall height of 75 feet 6 inches. The worker died in the fall.
Eye and Face Protection
Eye and Face Protection
Helmets and Face Shields
Use helmets or face shields during all arc welding or arc cutting operations, excluding submerged arc welding. Provide proper eye
protection to all helpers or attendants.
Goggles and Spectacles
Use goggles or other suitable eye protection during all gas welding or oxygen cutting operations. It is okay to use spectacles without
side shields, with suitable filter lenses, during gas welding operations on light work, for torch brazing or for inspection.
All operators and attendants of resistance welding or resistance brazing equipment must use transparent face shields or goggles, depending on the particular job, to protect
their faces or eyes, as required.
Eye protection in the form of suitable goggles must be provided where needed for brazing operations not covered in
Protection from Arc Welding Rays
Where the work permits, enclose the welder in an individual booth painted with a finish of low reflectivity such as zinc oxide (an important factor for absorbing ultraviolet radiations), or enclose the welding station with noncombustible screens similarly painted.
- Booths and screens must permit circulation of air at floor level.
- Protect workers or other persons adjacent to the welding areas from the rays by non-combustible or flameproof screens or shields. If this is not possible, they must be
required to wear appropriate goggles.
A variety of special clothing is available to protect the body during cutting and welding operations. The protective clothing will vary with the size, location, and nature of
the work performed.
Flameproof gauntlets for hand protection.
During ANY welding or cutting operation, you should wear flameproof gauntlets (stout leather gloves with long loose wrist) at all times.
- For gas welding and cutting, a five-finger glove is generally used.
- For electric arc welding, a gauntlet-type mitt is recommended.
- Gauntlets protect the hands from both heat and metal spatter.
- The one-finger mitt designed for electric arc welding has an advantage over the glove because it reduces the danger of weld spatter and sparks lodging between the fingers.
It also reduces the chafing of fingers, which sometimes occurs when using five-finger gloves for electric arc welding.
Choosing the proper clothing for welding and cutting is important for safety and comfort.
- Do not wear oilskins or plastic clothing during welding or cutting.
- If leather protective clothing is not available, wear woolen garments rather than cotton garments. Wool does not ignite as readily as cotton, and it affords greater
protection from changes in temperature.
- Chemically treat cotton clothing, if necessary, to reduce its flammability. Do not wear synthetic fabrics.
Light Gas Welding and Cutting
Some light gas welding and cutting jobs require no special protective clothing other than gauntlets and goggles, if you wear regular work clothing correctly. Wearing clothing
in the manner described below decreases the probability that sparks will lodge in folds of cloth, such as rolled-up sleeves and cuffs, pockets, or the shirt collar.
- Roll sleeves down, button collar and cuffs. Eliminate pockets not protected by button-down flaps from the front of work clothing.
- Do not turn trouser cuffs up on the outside. All other clothing should be free of oil and grease.
- Wear high-top or safety shoes, instead of low-cut shoes with unprotected tops.
Medium and Heavy Welding
During medium and heavy welding, specially designed flameproof clothing made of leather, or other suitable material, may be required. Clothing consists of aprons, sleeves, a
combination of sleeves and bib, jackets, and overalls.
Consider the following when selecting protective clothing:
- Capes to protect the back of the neck, top of the shoulders, and upper part of the back and chest.
- Bibs in combination with the cape and sleeves gives added protection to the chest and abdomen in jobs where protection for the lower part of the back is not required.
- Wear the jacket only when complete all-around protection for the upper part of the body is required.
- Aprons and overalls provide protection to the legs.
- For very heavy work, wear fire-resistant leggings or high boots. Do NOT wear shoes or boots that have exposed nail heads or rivets.
During overhead welding operations, it is important to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against burns and falling objects.
- Wear leather caps under helmets to prevent head burns.
- Where the welder may be exposed to sharp or heavy falling objects attach hard hats or head protectors in such a way as to form a part of the welding helmet.
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