Top Tips for Welding Health and Safety
In many ways, welding health and safety is exactly the same as health and safety in any other area of construction.
Construction sites can be hazardous environments, and welders are exposed to those hazards in the same way that builders, roofers, plumbers and other construction workers are. They risks they face include:
- Slips, trips and falls
- Manual handling
- Being hit or crushed by objects
- Falls from height
However, there are some hazards that are specific to welders and anyone dealing with welding health and safety needs to take those hazards into consideration.
Welding Fumes and Gases – the main Welding Health and Safety Risk
One of the main risks with welding comes from the fumes and gases involved which can cause illness in welders. This can be temporary, or it can result in permanent illnesses like asthma. In some cases welders have to give up welding and take up a different occupation. Breathing in welding fumes can also result in pneumonia.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, on average, one welder per week is admitted to hospital as a result of breathing in welding fumes, and two welders are killed each year due to fumes.
Reducing the Risk from Welding Fumes and Gases
Obviously, the best way to reduce the risk from welding fumes and gases is to minimise the amount of fumes and gases produced.
This can be done by redesigning the job so that there is less welding and cutting. Where that is not possible, extraction and ventilation can be used and avoiding working in confined spaces can also minimise the exposure to welding fumes and gases.
Arc-eye is another major problem that needs to be considered by anyone dealing with welding health and safety. It is the inflammation of the cornea. It is caused by ultraviolet radiation from the arc during welding. It tends to manifest itself several hours after the exposure has occurred.
It can be treated with eye drops and usually the effects are temporary, only lasting a day or two.
The risk of arc-eye can be minimised by using screening or personal eye protection. This applies to both the welder and anyone who is in close proximity to the welding process.
Fire and Explosion
Welding health and safety involves protecting the welder, but the use of heat can also present risks for other people and property in the nearby vicinity.
Combustible material in the area should be removed. If that is not possible it should be covered by non-combustible covers. Adequate fire extinguishing equipment should be made available.
Someone else should supervise the welding to ensure that any sparks do not set fire to property that is out of sight of the welder. The site should be inspected an hour after the use of heat has finished to make sure that nothing has been left smouldering.
Some forms of electric arc welding generate noise levels that can be harmful. As with any noisy process, ear defenders should be used to prevent hearing damage. This applies to the person doing the welding as well as anyone else in the nearby area.
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