To know what protective equipment you should use when welding, let’s first look at the hazard you are exposed to when you engage in this activity.
Welding safety hazards
Electric shock – In most cases, welding is powered by electricity, and live circuits are used to melt the metals before joining them together. Both primary and secondary electric shocks can cause serious injuries and if the worst happens, electric shocks can be fatal. You will always be exposed to electric shock if you work in wet conditions and in highly congested areas where body movement is limited.
Burns – Welding activity uses high-temperature welding arcs and UV rays to produce very hot molten metal. All these elements make you prone to burns on the skin or eyes. In most cases, burns will occur if you are not in the right protective clothing.
Loud, prolonged noise-Welding activities such as flame cutting produce a loud noise that can lead to noise-induced hearing loss along with other side effects such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, and increased blood pressure /heart rate.
UV/IR radiation exposure – Strong UV or IR light is produced during welding and can be very detrimental to your eyes. Extended exposure to this beam may lead to cataracts and vision loss.
Gaseous fumes exposure – Welding produces a lot of invisible and toxic gases that can lead to illnesses such as cancer, pneumonia, asthma, throat and lung irritation.
With all these hazards, it is clear that you need to follow some safety precautions anytime you do a welding activity. One of the most important safety precautions is wearing the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here are the PPE you should buy or be provided with if you work for a company:
Welding respirator – Protects the lungs against fumes and gaseous oxides. Always ensure that the respirator is recommended for the welding work you are doing.
Welding helmet and a fire-resistant hood – The welding helmet keeps UV radiation, intense light, sparks, and other burning elements off your eyes and face. A fire-resistant hood protects the back of your head from these elements. You should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using a welding helmet. For the lens, you need to adjust the filter until you achieve comfortable visibility that does not irritate your eyes.
Fire-resistant aprons – Shields exposed skin from burns and radiation. The clothing should be made of cotton and not a synthetic material. Also, ensure that the apron has no cuffs and that the pockets are covered.
Fire-resistant Earplugs/muffs- Protects your ears from loud noise. Ears muffs are preferred since they also shield your ears from sparks.
To make the most out of these PPEs, avoid the following:
Removing your helmet while welding- All welding activities should be done with your helmet on. The welding helmet protects your delicate face and head area from welding elements. Even if you are not practically welding, you should wear the correct PPE when in close vicinity (10 m and below) to the welding workspace.
Keeping the PPEs untidy – You must clean your protective clothing and gears from time to time to ensure that dirt does not compromise some of their properties, such as fire resistance.
Folding up parts of your trouser or sleeves – Cloth folds can trap spark and potentially cause serious burns. Always keep everything straightened and tucked in, if possible.
Additional safety precautionary measures
Keep the workspace properly ventilated to ensure that gases and small particulates do not build-up
Eliminate flammables from your welding workspace to reduce the risk of fires
Get trained on how to use welding equipment and the safety precautions that are involved
Welding is a useful activity, especially in an industrial setting where metals need to be joined regularly. If done right and following the above preventive measures, the occurrence of accidents can be significantly reduced. On the other hand, serious injuries can occur if you assume even basic measures such as wearing a welding helmet. Let this guide be an eye-opener and may you always follow all the safety precautions and wear the correct PPE any time you do welding.