Welding And Fabrication Safety – Pt.2
Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing (SVM) prides itself on being a leader in the manufacturing and industrial fabrication business. We provide quality products with a full range of services, building everything from crane rail systems to entire custom-made prefabricated buildings.
One of the essential parts of our manufacturing and fabricating business is welding. The ability to join metal pieces together with a strong yet nearly invisible weld is essential for anyone involved in fabricating new products. Recently, we spent some time looking at some of the most common types of welding, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG), Metal Inert Gas (MIG), and Shielded Metal Arc (SMAW or stick welding), and how they are commonly used. While these methods are common and the welders employed by SVM are master craftsman, there are still certain safety risks inherent to welding. Fortunately, while they are impossible to eliminate fully, they can easily be mitigated. These risks include electrocution, fumes, blindness, and fire.
Electrical hazards: Welding requires electricity—a lot of it, enough to generate an arc as hot as the surface of the sun. Naturally, that presents a hazard to the welder. Normally, you would imagine that the preventative measures would include rubber gloves, but the heat involved would melt it. The welding power supplies instead are grounded to prevent shock from static electricity that would otherwise build up around the electrode. It is also important to ensure that the electrical cords and the welding outlet for the welder are in good condition.
Fumes: When welding, there is obviously a lot of melting metal that gives off fumes. If the welder is exposed to a high enough concentration of fumes, it can cause severe respiratory problems over time. These issues are mitigated by ensuring there is adequate ventilation in the area where the welding is occurring. If needed, special ventilation can be set up to remove the fumes directly from the welding area. As a last resort, if the exposure to toxic metal fumes will exceed exposure limits, a respirator can be worn. This must be carefully considered, though, as respirators can restrict visibility, increase the length of the job, and increase the risk of heat stress.
Eye protection: That electrical arc generated in the welding process is bright enough to blind a person quickly. That is why welding masks have incredibly dark, tinted glass to protect the welder’s eyes. This is another area where competing concerns must be considered. In this case, the competing concerns are the need to protect the welder’s vision and to make sure that he can still see well enough to weld. Others working in the area need to be considered as well. If working in an area where there will be others working or through traffic, welding screens should be put up to prevent people from inadvertently looking at the arc.
Fire and Burns: Welding, of course, gives off sparks, as does the grinder that might be used to dress up the weld, or to prepare the surface for welding in the first place. Whenever possible, all combustibles should be removed to at least 35 feet from the welding site. If it isn’t likely to do so, the combustible material should be covered with a fire blanket or blocked with a welding screen. A fire watch should also be assigned. The fire watch is there to provide a fast response if a fire should start. The fire watch will need to have a fire extinguisher rated for class ABC fires to put out a fire if one should start.
Sparks, of course, could also land on the welder, causing severe burns. That is another reason for the welder’s mask to keep sparks off the welder’s face. He should also be wearing a long sleeve, a flame retardant shirt to protect his arms and body from burns.
While welding, safety is everything. Like many activities in an industrial environment, welding is dangerous, these risks can be very strongly mitigated with reasonably simple safety measures. These measures are low cost, common sense, and essential to take to protect the health and well-being of our workers. Combined with the skill, experience, and dedication of our welders, your project will be done on time, to the highest standards, and safely completed.