It’s important to be versed in welding safety 101 before you start using your new tools. Whether you are the head of a company, or looking to weld independently, you should know the hazards and take proper safety precautions like wearing a welding helmet. The methods used to fuse metals produce harmful toxic fumes. These fumes can cause burns, eye injuries, and respiratory problems. There is a high risk of explosion, especially if the area around you is not clear of flammable or combustible materials. Follow these tips to avoid injuries as you learn to use your welding tools.
- Read every page of the entire manual of the tool you are using. Every machine works differently. The user manual includes warnings and tips unique to that specific machine. Reading your manual will help you learn specific procedures to keep you safe and get the most out of your machine. You can also find many manuals online. When finding your manual online, check the manufacturer’s website first. Never trust a manual written and distributed by a third party.
- Cover all of your skin. Any exposed skin can be damaged by sparks or ultraviolet light. It is also best to choose clothes that don’t have folds, pockets, or openings that sparks can land in. You may not notice your pocket is smoldering before it catches fire. Don’t forget to empty your pockets before you enter your work area. Be especially careful about removing combustible or flammable materials like lighters and matches.
- Choose your shoes carefully. It is best to wear high-top boots made of leather. Then, pull your pant legs over the top of the shoes. This will ensure no sparks can reach your ankles. Never wear cloth shoes. They burn easily.
- Make sure your space has fresh air circulating. Breathing in the fumes and smoke can be very dangerous. As these toxic fumes and shielding gasses accumulate, they replace your supply of breathable air. If you don’t have ventilation in your space, you may want to use a respirator for a constant supply of clean air.
- Have the right protective gear. There are a ton of new clothing designs made with flame resistant cloth. Older welding jackets and gloves were clunky and hot. You can find companies that produce lightweight, flexible welding jackets and ergonomic gloves. To keep your gloves in good shape longer, always use pliers when you pick up welded materials.
- Welding arc flash is like getting a sunburn on your eyeball. Looking at the welding arc for even a fraction of a second can cause arc flash. Be sure you are wearing a full welding mask with a UV filter and UV filtering safety goggles underneath when you are welding or observing. Auto-darkening helmets are react to the light within a fraction of a second. High end models react at around 1/10,000 of a second. Be careful with low end models. They do not all react quickly enough and are less effective in cold weather.
- Clear your welding area of everything you won’t need. There should be no clutter around your welding area. This makes it easier to ensure there are no dangerous fluids, trip hazards, and will keep you safer.
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- If you are a commercial welder, auto-darkening welding helmets also reduce your risk of injury from repetitive movement. With regular helmets you need to constantly flip the mask up and down. The flick of your neck to move the mask down can cause injury. Auto-darkening masks are lighter than other masks so you don’t need to flip them.
- Reward yourself or employees for following safety procedure. Some companies also punish not only the people who directly violate safety procedure, but also anyone who witnessed the violation without reporting. Offer quality safety equipment to people who are perfect examples and prove their efforts to keeping your team safe. This will keep workplace injuries down more effectively than running periodic safety programs, as safety becomes more ingrained in their daily procedures.
- Large industrial companies should use innovative fixturing to overcome sources of hazards. Some fixtures allow you to rotate a project weighing thousands of pounds without the use of a chain hoist. It saves precious time and transforms a potentially dangerous task into a safe one.
Implementing these tips on your shop or company will keep you and your employees safer. Following these tips, like wearing a welding helmet or keeping your workspace clean, will ensure you have a safe and productive experience every time you weld.
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