Proper Protection in and Around Welding Work

Man performing welding work in PPE

Fabrication and welding work are crucial in the industrial world, serving as the go-to approach for repairs and maintenance that keep operations on track and jobsites safe. Even so, they aren’t without their risks.

Such work involves using arcs, flames and pressure to permanently fuse two or more parts together, exposing welders and those around them to a wide range of safety concerns. Of course, understanding the particular risks at play — and the best ways to stand protected — can make all the difference.

Read on for insights aimed at helping to keep your welding crews safer amid their projects, and industrial plant personnel better protected when such work is taking place nearby.

What Are the Dangers Associated with Welding Work?
As we’ve mentioned, fabrication and welding are carried out with help from high-temperature flames and, at times, pressure to permanently bond multiple parts or pieces together. The process presents a number of safety concerns for those carrying out the work — and, to some extent, those in the nearby vicinity, too.

  • Burns: Between the flying sparks, the welding flames and the hot metal and equipment, severe burns are a common concern with welding work. It’s important for any welder to adhere to best practices, and to wear proper protective gear on the job. In addition, alert others in the vicinity of any parts or equipment they should avoid.
  • Vision Damage: The visible light generated during the welding process is extremely bright and has the power to temporarily blind an individual without proper eye protection. In addition, the infrared and UV light emitted can result in cataracts over an extended period of time. Adequate eye protection is important not only for welders, but anyone in the immediate area who might find themselves glancing at the welding arc.
  • Electrical Shock: The live electrical circuits which foster arc welding can lead to dangerous — and at times, deadly — shocks on the job. Welders should take care to don proper protective equipment, carry out their work on mats that are rubberized or insulated and avoid touching the metal parts on their equipment. In addition, a thorough inspection of the equipment itself should be carried out before work begins.
  • Cuts: As with any undertaking involving heavy equipment and metal parts, welders’ work leaves them at risk of serious cuts, scrapes and the like. Proper safety equipment and added care when handling parts, equipment and raw materials go a long way to keep them protected.
  • UV Radiation Exposure: UV radiation given off by a welding arc can lead to injuries akin to sunburn on exposed skin, eye sensitivity and even skin cancer. It’s important for anyone taking on welding work — or working in an area where welding work is taking place — to wear adequate protection and remain aware of their surroundings.
  • Fume and Gas Exposure: Although specific metal fume and gas exposures will vary depending on the type of welding at play, breathing such byproducts in can result in a wide range of health concerns. These include, but are not limited to, irritation to the nose, throat and eyes, difficulty breathing, nausea, lung damage and even cancer. Quality ventilation and respiratory protection play a crucial role in keeping welders and those nearby protected.
  • Aches, Sprains and Strains: Welders often find themselves on their feet for long hours, handling heavy equipment and bending in uncomfortable positions as they try to tackle their project from the best possible angle. This can do a number on the muscles and joints. Adequate stretching and a concerted effort to keep the body in comfortable, more ergonomic positions can help ward off discomfort and long-term damage.

What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Should Welders Wear?
The right PPE can make an objectively dangerous undertaking such as welding much safer to take on. Here are a few common items today’s welders put to use.

  • Eye and Face Protection: Such protection should be geared specifically toward welding work. Safety glasses or goggles must feature filter lenses with adequate shading, and welding helmets or face shields should fit properly. If the welding work puts crew members at risk of flying parts and pieces, they should also consider goggles or glasses with side shields for added protection.
  • Flame-Resistant Apparel: Traditional cotton clothing is no match for welding arcs that can reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Arc- and flame-resistant clothing is engineered specifically for extreme temperature scenarios. Not only do they protect the skin, but they will stop burning as soon as the heat source is removed. Welders should find clothing rated for their specific work and remember that wearing multiple layers — arc-proof jumpsuits paired with shirts and so on — provides increased safety.
  • Hand and Foot Protection: Insulated gloves and rubberized boots can provide potentially life-saving barriers between the welder and the electric currents and/or hot equipment with which they work. Such equipment should fit well and be free of wear and tear which might leave the worker at risk of injury.
  • Breathing Protection: Depending on the type of welding taking place and the specific environment, respirators can serve as a crucial safety consideration, protecting against smoke and fumes — and warding off long-term health concerns. A proper respirator will fit snugly yet comfortably over the nose and mouth, and will fit beneath a welding helmet.

What Should Industrial Personnel Consider When Welding Work is Happening Nearby?
For those in industrial areas where such projects are taking place, but who aren’t doing the work themselves, the safety considerations are far less detailed than the above. Even so, they remain important.

Workers should wear safety goggles in and around welding areas to protect against potential eye damage. They should also take care to ensure adequate ventilation, as secondhand gases and fumes can lead to health concerns. Periodic breaks outside, or trips to other areas of the industrial site, can help. If such measures aren’t possible, respirator use is another option.

Perhaps the most important safeguard for any industrial plant worker, however, is a keen sense of their surroundings. By making a concerted effort to understand the work taking place — and the potential dangers associated with it — crew members can take an active role in creating a safer overall environment.

We hope the above has shed some light on the safety issues associated with industrial welding and fabrication work, and the ways crews like yours can stand protected. If you have questions about any of the above, or if you’re interested in learning more about Gallant Industrial’s welding and fabrication offerings, feel free to contact our team. We’re glad to help, and we look forward to working with you!