Top 8 Safety Tips for Welding

Anyone involved in welding practices, whether a small independent fabricator or someone who works for a welding-intensive company, must know fundamental welding safety tips. In general, it’s essential to use safety equipment for welding, abide by OSHA welding safety regulations and purchase equipment and supplies from reputable gas and welding manufacturing brands to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for welders.

Below are eight safety tips for welding that will help equip welders with best practices to avoid hazards and establish safer workspaces.

The Importance of Welding Safety

According to OSHA, welders are at risk of various safety hazards while on the job. The American Welding Society also maintains a comprehensive fact sheet detailing welding health and safety concerns. Thankfully, most of these concerns are entirely avoidable or require standard safety protocols to mitigate potential danger.

By fostering welding best practices, such as supplying and ensuring welders wear safety equipment for welding, employers can help protect welders from the five most common welding safety hazards:

  • Physical harm: Welders are at risk of a range of physical dangers that can cause cuts, burns, eye injuries and more. 
  • Welder’s flash: The dangers of welder’s flash, or arc-eye, can lead to temporary or permanent blindness. 
  • Welding fumes: Without proper ventilation or respirators, welders are at risk of respiratory issues and diseases.
  • Electrocution: To avoid minor and significant electric shock, welders must ensure equipment is adequately grounded and take precautions.
  • Fire and combustion: Welders work with several flammable materials while welding, and not adhering to welding best practices may lead to fire and explosions.

Welding Industry Safety Standards

OSHA document 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Q breaks down OSHA welding safety and procedural requirements, including various topics that pertain to welding best practices. Furthermore, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) outlines a spectrum of welding safety standards, including general welding safety standards, arc welding safety standards and more. The level and manner of implementation depend on the type of welding and the company’s context.

Top 8 Welding Safety Tips and Best Practices

Welders should hold themselves and others accountable to uphold health and safety standards and maintain an optimal working environment. The following is a breakdown of the top welding safety tips every welder and welding employer should know and implement.

1. Training and Education

There is always a need for skilled welders. This is particularly true considering the current welder shortage in the United States. There are various avenues for welders to learn how to weld and acquire positions in multiple industries. Although a person can learn to weld without formal training, obtaining proper certification or accreditation is best before looking for work.

Being properly certified may lead to more and improved job opportunities. Further, education, which is part of certification, helps welders stay updated on safety regulations and best practices. This means engaging in ongoing learning programs that offer refreshers and insights into the latest safety practices and welding techniques.

Before using unfamiliar or new machinery and equipment, it’s vital to understand the proper procedures. Although laborious, studying the user manuals, warning labels and safety guidelines is a welding best practice. If a welder or their employer feels that further training is needed before using the welding equipment or consumables, that’s a chance to expand workplace knowledge and safety.

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

What’s the essential safety equipment for welders to avoid injury? In order to help prevent potential physical injuries and diseases, welders should always dress in flame-resistant clothing and other PPE and safety equipment for welding as outlined in OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart I, which discusses all relevant requirements for welding operations

Types of essential PPE and safety equipment for welding include:

  • Eye and face protection: To avoid welder’s flash or arc eye, welders must wear a welding helmet with a face shield, welding goggles or welding safety glasses, depending on the project.
  • Hand and foot protection: Welders handle various materials and welding equipment. Therefore, welders should wear application-specific gloves that are heat-resistant and non-conductive to protect their hands and lower arms. Welders should also wear steel-tipped high-top leather shoes with rubber soles. For industry and area-specific use, welders may want slip-resistant and electrical hazard shoes.
  • Head protection: A welding hood, head cover or welding cap is ideal for protecting a welder’s head, neck and ears from sparks that can cause severe burn damage to sensitive areas.
  • Ear protection: According to OSHA Standard 1910.95 on occupational noise exposure, if someone is exposed to an average noise level of 85dB for eight hours or more, they must wear adequate hearing protection. Therefore, welders should wear ear plugs or welding ear muffs.
  • Heat, fire and radiation protection: Welders need to wear flame-resistant clothing or outerwear, without cuffs or pockets, that covers their entire body, including legs and arms.
  • Electrocution protection: Besides other PPE recommendations, welders should wear insulated and non-conductive clothing to protect themselves from electric shock.
  • Respiratory protection: OSHA Standard 1910.134 outlines respiratory protection requirements and highlights the importance of fume extraction systems, welder respirators and the required types and standards.

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3. Work Area Preparation

A cluttered workspace can lead to injuries on duty from welders tripping and falling — or worse, welding fires and explosions. Welding sparks can travel several feet, so keeping the workspace free of any potentially flammable substances or materials is vital. Ensure only the necessary tools and equipment are out while everything else is packed away.

Welders should also make sure their work areas are clean before working. This step is crucial and can help prevent welders from slipping, keep equipment and materials cleaner, allow welders to avoid contaminated welds and reduce potential fire hazards.

Additionally, welders should make a practice of taking in their surroundings and identifying all relevant equipment locations and potential hazards. Welding equipment should be adequately secured where possible to avoid accidental movement. Knowing where everything is and what the potential dangers are allows a welder to work more productively, organize the work area better and make safety-related decisions.

Finally, before working, welders should ensure ventilation systems are operating and there is sufficient airflow. It’s also crucial to be aware of any drafts or wind, which can carry sparks further than expected and be a fire hazard.

4. Fire Safety Measures

The welding process produces several heat sources that can easily ignite flammable materials. These heat sources include:

  • Torch flames
  • Sparks
  • Spatter
  • Hot slag 

Clearing the work area of any flammable materials is one of the welding best practices. Before beginning work, welders should take inventory of their environments and note the locations of fire protection as outlined in OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart L, which includes:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • Sand buckets
  • Fire blankets
  • Emergency exits
  • Fire alarms

Another OSHA welding safety component is understanding and following fire emergency procedures, as outlined in OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart E. It’s imperative that welders are aware of and trained in the company or premises’ emergency procedures before welding work commences.

5. Electrical Safety

There are two types of electrocution that may occur during welding:

  1. Primary voltage shock: This shock usually delivers between 220 and 480 volts but can be as high as 600 volts. It occurs when a welder touches any part of the energized welder, including the welding or electrode circuit.
  2. Secondary voltage shock: This is a more common form of shock and delivers between 20 and 100 volts, which is typically less severe but can still lead to death in certain instances. This occurs when a welder touches a part of either the welding or electrode circuit with one body part while another makes contact with a piece of grounded metal — usually the metal they’re welding.

Welders should always take specific measures to alleviate and eliminate all potential electrical risks, including:

  • Receiving training
  • Wearing properly insulated PPE
  • Keeping everything dry
  • Inspecting equipment
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Maintaining insulation
  • Properly grounding welding equipment
  • Using ground-fault circuit interrupters
  • Following manufacturer-instructions

6. Hazardous Materials and Substances

The primary hazardous materials and substances that welders store and use are two-part and three-part welding mixtures made up of a combination of gases. If compressed canisters are not managed appropriately, they pose significant risks. Apart from fire and explosion risk, gas cylinders can also become projectiles if mishandled or damaged.

Therefore, companies and welders should safely handle and store flammable gases and liquids. Several detailed requirements and guidelines for hazardous materials are listed in OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart H and are worth consulting. In general, these are some welding safety tips and best practices that are in line with OSHA welding safety:

  • Proper welding mixture storage and handling: All welders need to know how to safely handle and store gas cylinders and potentially transport them. For instance, cylinders should be stored upright in a cool and dry place, preferably in racks, stands or cages. Use carts or trolleys when moving canisters — never roll or drag them.
  • Storage and work area ventilation: Welders should keep cylinders in well-ventilated areas to minimize fire risk and gas inhalation in the event of a leak.
  • Gas cylinders and heat sources: During storage or use, gas cylinders should be kept away from any heat sources, including welding arcs, furnaces and heat-generating equipment. It is also wise to keep welding gas cylinders away from other flammable materials to prevent the spread of potential fires.
  • Valve protection caps: When storing welding gas or when it is not in use, always use valve protection caps to prevent accidental gas release and to protect the valve from damage.
  • Gas cylinder pressure regulators: When connecting gas cylinders to welding equipment, always check the valve first and use a pressure regulator to control the gas flow and regulate the pressure to avoid sudden or excessive releases.
  • Safety Data Sheet (SDS): The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires that chemical manufacturers provide an SDS — previously a Material Safety Data Sheet. Welders who handle hazardous chemicals must familiarize themselves with the OSHA Safety Data Sheet brief to gain a better understanding of SDS contents and meaning.

7. Welding Fume Extraction

The fumes and smoke emitted during welding pose health hazards to welders, especially in confined spaces. The type of gases and fumes will vary depending on the type of welding and the materials being used and welded.

When welders are overexposed to various welding gases and potentially harmful fumes, they risk short-term effects, including irritated eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, and nausea. Serious health problems, including respiratory illnesses, cancer and neurological effects, are also possible.

Thankfully, there are viable options and procedures for managing weld fumes. Some control measures for welding fumes and gases include:

  • Choosing alternative and less harmful materials
  • Wearing appropriate PPE, such as respirators
  • Ensuring the work area is well-ventilated
  • Installing fume extraction systems such as exhaust hoods or exhaust systems
  • Going for regular health checkups for early health issue detection

8. Safe Handling of Welding Equipment

Apart from receiving the appropriate training and being familiar with welding equipment, a welder should also improve their safety by:

  • Operating equipment according to manufacturer’s instructions: Even if a welder is highly experienced, they must examine the operating manuals containing user instructions and safety information. Furthermore, following stipulated procedures is advisable if a welder wishes to maximize machine potential. It is also crucial that everyone who uses the equipment is familiar with the manual contents. Keeping the manual readily available is a good idea so welders can quickly refresh their memories.
  • Regularly inspecting and maintaining equipment: Any experienced welder knows that regularly checking and maintaining equipment is a welding best practice. Welders should ensure equipment is free of wear and tear and potential damages. If a welder suspects any faults, they should have the welding gear inspected before operating. Although it takes a few extra moments, it is wise to do preliminary inspections before every use, including safety equipment for welding.
  • Properly storing and securing welding tools and materials: Although it can be tempting to leave equipment out for the following day and not clean and pack it away, a simple welding safety tip is to store and secure it properly. Welding tools, equipment, materials and PPE gear should all get cleaned and packed away after use. This minimizes the chance of items getting damaged, stolen or tampered with and helps ensure everything remains in good working order.

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Elevate Your Welding With Meritus Gas Partners

By following these welding safety tips and adhering to welding best practices and requirements set by OSHA and other relevant organizations, welders can mitigate risks and maintain safe work areas. Receiving adequate training, wearing PPE, maintaining equipment, executing safety protocols and using premium welding and gas supplies boosts welder safety and confidence.

Meritus Gas Partners works with a team of independently operated distributors that provide a range of supplies and services for various high-precision industries, including welding. To learn how we and our trusted partners can assist you with welding safety, supplies, equipment and more, contact us or visit one of our branches near you.

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