Welding is inherently hazardous to workers. Besides the hazards from noise, electric shock, and fires and explosions, exposure to welding “smoke” (i.e., gases and fumes) can lead to acute or chronic respiratory diseases, such as lung-function impairment, obstructive and restrictive lung disease, cough, dyspnea, rhinitis, asthma, pneumonitis, pneumoconiosis, and carcinoma of the lungs. In addition, welding workers suffer from eye irritation, including photokeratitis and cataracts; skin irritation, such as erythema, pterygium, non-melanocytic skin cancer, and malignant melanoma; and infertility due to reduced sperm count and motility.

With proper planning and attention to detail, however, workers can increase their margin of safety. The following safety recommendations during welding operations may help reduce the potential for worker injury.

Preparing to Weld

Before any welding is started, identify the hazards for that particular welding operation. The hazards will depend on the type of welding, the materials used, and the environmental conditions.

Review material safety data sheets (MSDSs) to identify the hazardous materials used in welding and the fumes that may be generated. Substitute less hazardous materials, where feasible.

Use cadmium-free silver solders and asbestos-free electrodes.

Wear gloves and ensure that hoods and ductwork are constructed of fire-resistant materials.

Use shielding to protect people in the work area from the light of the welding arc, as well as from heat and hot spatter.

Ensure welding booths are painted with a dull finish that does not reflect ultraviolet light.

Use acoustic shields between the worker and the noise source to reduce noise levels.

Remove all flammable or combustible materials in the immediate area before striking an arc or lighting a flame.

Ensure that the proper fire extinguishers are readily available.

Make sure that equipment is properly maintained (e.g., replace worn insulation and hoses).

During Welding Operations

Use soapy water, instead of matches, to check for leaks in hoses, fittings, and valves in welding equipment.

Use ventilation to the maximum extent possible. Local exhaust ventilation that removes the fumes and gases at their source is the most effective method. This can be provided by a partial enclosure, such as a ventilated work bench, or by hoods positioned as close to the point of welding as possible.

For gas-shielded arc welding processes, provide local exhaust by means of an extracting gun – this can reduce worker exposure to welding emissions by 70 percent.

Do not weld on painted or coated parts – if possible, remove all surface coatings before welding.

Use a water table under plasma arc cutting to reduce fume and noise levels.

Use the sub-arc process to minimize light and fumes created by a visible arc.

Position your body while welding or cutting so that your head is not in the fumes.

Minimize welding fumes by using the lowest acceptable amperage and holding the electrode perpendicular and as close to the work surface as possible.

Do not perform arc welding within 200 ft (61.0 m) of degreasing equipment or solvents.

Ensure materials that have been recently welded are marked “HOT” to avoid burns.

COPYRIGHT ©2006, ISO Services Properties, Inc.