The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) estimates that 37,000 fires occur in industry each year and an estimated 562,000 employees are at risk for exposure to chemical and physical hazards of welding.
When performing hot work there are several best practices that workers can adopt to help avoid hazards including electric shock, exposure to fumes and gases, physical injuries and fires or explosions. Let's look at some of the top safety rules your workplace can implement:
1. Safety Procedures
Knowing your company's safety procedures that can keep yourself and others safe.
Always stay up to date on your organization's requirements
2. Equipment Safe Operation
Familiarize yourself with the equipment's safety guidelines and understanding how to operate the equipment safely
3. Proper Ventilation
Controlling the fumes and gases by maintaining proper ventilation (fans/exhaust systems) and wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is the foundation for protecting yourself from fumes and gases. Keep in mind that depending on the work you are performing and the substances you are encountering, you may need to wear a respirator to help prevent heavy metal poisoning or lung cancer.
Fumes may produce metal fume fever with symptoms that may include:
4. Reduce Exposure to Electric Shock
Reducing the exposure to electric shock - a common hazard facing welders. This can be done by following some simple steps prior to working:
5. Protect From Fire
Protecting the building and its occupants by limiting the possibility for fires to erupt. Welding can create sparks that can fly up to 35 feet. Maintain a clutter-free workspace by storing chemicals or other flammable objects away from the workspace. Train employees to know where fire alarms, emergency exits, and other fire prevention equipment are located and ensure that working 10- ABC fire extinguishers are easily accessible.
Understanding Fire Extinguisher Ratings
Fire extinguishers are rated based upon the type of fire they can extinguish – using the wrong fire extinguisher can make a fire worse:
Fire Extinguisher Guidelines
Properly use a fire extinguisher by using the PASS System
Most importantly, ensure you have a means of escape BEFORE attempting to extinguish a fire!
Remember that welding should not be performed where paint or dust hazards are present.
6. Dress for the Job
Dressing for the job by wearing appropriate PPE. Welders should have a PPE program that includes:
EYE & FACE PROTECTION
PPE includes welding helmets (with side shields and/or auto darkening lenses), safety glasses or goggles. Choose the proper shield / shade # for adequate protection.
Welder's flash or arc eye is a burn to the eyes and accounts for 5.6% of construction eye injuries. Symptoms of this include:
Shielded Metal-Arc Welding 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32 Inch Electrodes
Gas-Shielded Arc Welding (nonferrous) 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32 Inch Electrodes
Gas-Shielded Arc Welding (ferrous) 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32 Inch Electrodes
Shielded Metal Arc Welding 3/16, 7/32, 1/4 Inch Electrodes
Shielded Metal Arc Welding 5/16, 3/8 , Inch Electrodes
Atomic Hydrogen welding
Carbon Arc Welding
FIRE RESISTANT & INSULATED CLOTHING
Fire resistant and insulated clothing protects you from the risk of burns as the result of heat, radiation, fire, and electrocution.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) you must implement a hearing conservation program to protect hearing when noise levels exceed 85 dB averaged over 8 working hours.
HAND & FOOT PROTECTION
Protect against electric shock and falling objects – this may include wearing flame-resistant gloves and rubber-soled hard toe boots.
Protect against harmful fumes. Remember, depending on the type of respiratory protection used, respiratory fit testing may be required and employees need to have medical clearance that they can wear the required PPE.
7. Understanding the Way You Work
Hunched over, staying in one position for prolonged periods or maintaining an awkward posture to perform repairs – can all impact how you work. By following proper ergonomic techniques, accommodating your workforce with equipment, you can help reduce the strain on the body.
8. Reporting safety violations
While this might be an uncomfortable thing to do, doing so can minimize health issues and safety injuries at your worksite.
To ensure you have the proper preparations for hot work, perform a hazard assessment that will establish the needed controls, confirm that hot work permits have been issued and designate an employee to perform a fire watch – this person should have no other duties other than fire watch – both while hot work is being performed and for at least 60 minutes following the completion of the hot work.
Have a Safe Day!