All construction and raw materials work is full of safety hazards. Welding, for example, is a particular process that requires extensive hazard-prevention training at the professional level. However, hobbyists or learners have to take their own responsibility in researching both the short and long term dangers of the materials and tools.
Below are the 3 most vital safety tips for welding metal, each of which should be second nature when at your workbench.
1. Choose a welding mask that complies with current regulations
We didn’t want to dedicate a spot on this list to just “wear a welding mask”, as this is way too obvious. Eye injuries account for a quarter of all welding injuries, and a large portion of those are in industries involving fabricated metal products. A welding mask (or set of goggles) will protect against flying particles and chipped debris, radiation and photochemical burns and irritation from fumes and chemicals.
Or, at least it should do. Some workers forgo eye protection (for every excuse from discomfort to having to wear prescription lenses underneath), but even those who do may not be tailored to the right level of welding safety. Eye protection should:
Conform to ANSI Z87.1 regulations
Be at a shade rating of 3-8, when gas welding
Be worn with safety glasses underneath, when arc welding
2. Work in a well ventilated environment
The physical act of welding can lead to injury, but the compounds found in welding fumes and the base metal itself can cause long term damage. Iron, manganese and silicon are all commonly found in welding fumes, and if breathed in these can cause serious health problems as minor as asthma, to as serious as lung cancer. Shielding gases (such as helium or carbon dioxide) are non-toxic, but they can displace oxygen in your breathing air, leading to dizziness, unconsciousness or even death.
With all this in mind, you should always evaluate your welding environment for ventilation and fume control. A general rule of thumb is to check if you feel comfortable in the environment, and if the air is visibly clear.
Keep fumes and gases from your breathing zone and general area using natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation, fixed or moveable exhaust hood. If this is simply not possible, the consider purchasing an approved respirator.
3. Wear the appropriate working gear
Even with your face fully protected, welding can present a series of dangers to the human body. These can be countered by not only keeping your workspace free of clutter, but also by wearing the right work uniform.
For starters, never weld with shorts, or short-sleeved shirts or jumpers. Flame-resistant clothing, such as denim or lightly woven material, should also be sought after. The excuse that such clothing is too heavy for work isn’t really fair when so many lightweight options are available from professional welding outlets.
Even if the job is a short one, always stick to the triad of safety gear - helmet, gloves and clothing!