Safety is a critical consideration for any welding project. Arc welding is a safe occupation when proper precautions are taken.
But, if safety measures are ignored, welders face an array of hazards which can be potentially dangerous, including electric shock, fumes and gases, fire and explosions and more.
To help keep welders safe, organizations such as the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offer safety guidelines to help control, minimize or to help employers and workers avoid welding hazards.
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Employers should ensure all workers have an opportunity to comply with the following important guidelines in the workplace:
- Read and understand manufacturer instructions for equipment
- Carefully review material safety data sheets
- Follow the company’s internal safety practices
Awareness of the most common welding hazards and knowing how to avoid them ensures a safe, productive work environment for all.
Electric shock is one of the most serious and immediate risks facing a welder. Electric shock can lead to severe injury or death, either from the shock itself or from a fall caused by the reaction to a shock.
Electric shock occurs when welders touch two metal objects that have a voltage between them, thereby inserting themselves into the electrical circuit. For instance, if a worker holds a bare wire in one hand and a second bare wire with another, electric current will pass through that wire and through the welding operator, causing an electric shock. The higher the voltage, the higher the current and, thus the higher the risk for the electric shock to result in injury or death.
The most common type of electric shock is secondary voltage shock from an arc welding circuit, which ranges from 20 to 100 volts. Bear in mind that even a shock of 50 volts or less can be enough to injure or kill an operator, depending on the conditions. Due to its constant change in polarity, alternating current (AC) voltage is more likely to stop the heart than direct current (DC) welders. It is also more likely to make the person holding the wire unable to let go.