Arc Welding Safety: Hazards and How To Prevent Them

Welding is a major activity in most industrial setups and construction projects and Arc Welding Safety should be considered a priority on every site since the related hazards and risks could have a critical impact on the safety of personnel and assets on site.

The main hazards in arc welding are toxic fumes, burns, fire, electrocution, UV radiation. Arc welding hazards can be prevented by having proper ventilation, trained employees, fire blankets, proper emergency response plan, grounding, PPE, and proper tools. In the below article we are going to discuss Arc Welding Safety and the related hazards and how to prevent them.

There are many different types of welding techniques, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The four most common types of welding techniques include: arc welding, gas welding, resistance welding, and laser beam welding.

Welding is a technique in which two pieces of metal are joined together by melting the metal and adding a filler material to create a strong joint. In this article we will focus on arc welding and discuss the related hazards and how to control them.

Arc welding is one of the most popular methods for joining metal parts. It is also known as stick or flux-cored arc welding (FCAW). A welder uses an electric current to produce an electric arc between two electrodes that melt the metal in order to form a strong weld joint.

Arc welding is a popular form of welding because it can accommodate any type of metal, offers a variety of welds, and has low initial costs. One downside is that it is one of the most dangerous types of welding. And that is why Arc Welding Safety should be taken seriously.

Finishing Touches. Cpl. David Merrifield, assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, puts the finishing touches on an obstacle course the U.S. Marines built at Price Barracks in Belize. Original public domain image from Flickr

Managing Arc Welding Safety

Arc welding has many hazards and precautions should be taken before, during, and after the welding process.

Main Arc Welding safety Hazards:

Fumes: There are toxic fumes created by the arc welding process which can be dangerous if they are not properly ventilated.

Burns: The welders must wear protective gear to avoid burns or injuries from the heat created by the arc

Electrical Shock: The welder must make sure that they use proper grounding when working on live electrical currents. welders should never work on live electrical currents without being grounded

Fire: Arc Welding can create a fire if the arc welder does not take precautions to prevent the hot metal or slag from touching other materials.

Ultraviolet radiation: Eye injury can occur from the intense light and radiation that are produced by the arc welding.

How to manage Arc Welding Safety

Free public domain CC0 photo.

1- Toxic Fumes:

Arc welding is one of the most dangerous processes for welders because it emits a number of toxic fumes that can be harmful to health.

Fumes are a mixture of gases and vapors that are created by the electric arc between the metal being welded and the electrode. These fumes contain substances like chromium, manganese, nickel, hydrogen fluoride, and other hazardous materials.

Fumes can affect arc welding safety and cause a variety of health issues including respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. It can also cause skin irritation or even cancer if you inhale too much in a short period of time.

Arc welding fumes can be toxic and dangerous to your health if you don’t wear the right protection.There are 3 types of fume respirator masks on the market today: Half-mask, Full-face mask, and Dual head full-face mask.

The half mask is designed for more short term use while the full face mask is designed for longer periods of time.

The dual head full face mask has two filters that can be switched out when one filter becomes saturated with dust particles or gas fumes.

The health effects of these fumes depend on the type and amount of metal that is in the air. Some metals can cause lung cancer and neurological damage while others can affect the brain or heart.

The most common health effects are metal fume fever (a flu-like condition) and eye irritation.

Arc welders should always wear an appropriate respirator and avoid breathing in the fumes. Arc welders should also make sure to use the proper ventilation when working with the equipment.

It is always best to depend on engineering controls to decrease the risk of fumes, and the best engineering control for Arc welding fumes is to carry out the work in a well-ventilated area. The ventilation should be at least 1.5 times the volume of the space being welded, and it must be continuously maintained.

Wildfire. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

2- Fire & Burns:

Arc welding has many advantages, but also some disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of arc welding is that it can cause fires and explosions if not done correctly.

In order to prevent these fires and explosions, and to ensure arc welding safety, there are many precautions that should be taken, and mainly the below:

  • Remove any combustible material
  • Use welding fire blankets
  • A fire extinguisher and a trained fire watcher should be available
  • Gas testing is done to check for any flammable atmosphere

As part of the welding safety essentials, and to protect himself from burns, the welder should make sure that he is wearing the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as per the below:

Welding torches create a lot of UVB and UVC light. Welders must minimize exposure to avoid sunburn and eye damage (Image courtesy wikipedia).

3- UV Radiation:

The most common side effect of arc welding is short-term vision loss. This happens when welders look at the welding arc for too long and it causes their retinas to be burned. When arc welding safety is ignored and this happens, the welders will need to wear protective eyewear or have surgery to correct it.

However, there are also some long-term effects that can happen with higher exposure to welding arcs, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and blindness. For welders who have been exposed for a long time, they will need regular eye exams in order to catch any problems early on before they get worse as part of an arc welding safety program.

Proper welding goggles or welding helmets should be worn to make sure the welder’s eyes are protected from the UV radiation. Furthermore, whenever possible, welding curtains/screens should be used to protect the nearby personnel from UV radiation.

High voltage danger sign. Free public domain CC0 photo.

4- Electrical Shock:

The electrical Arc welding safety hazards are the electric shocks that can occur to the person carrying out the work, or to others nearby.

Arc welding electrical risks can be caused by:

  • Direct contact with live wires
  • Contact with metal objects that are wet from rain or other sources of water
  • Contact with metal objects that have been coated in oil or grease

Grounding is essential during arc welding activities as it protects against electrical shock by allowing the flow of electricity to be redirected away from you and the surrounding area, should any part of the wire come into contact with a live wire.

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