Underwater welding isn’t familiar to most people. And due to the nature of the job, people are often confused if it is classified as a blue-collar job or not?
Underwater welding meets the criteria for a blue-collar job because it involves much manual labor and the use of physical abilities, which is performed outside the office setting.
Underwater welding has been around for decades and has become an attractive option for commercial divers because it is a very lucrative occupation. In this article, I will briefly explain what this phenomenon means, further explain the different types, likewise, its good and bad sides.
What Is Underwater Welding?
Underwater welding, also referred to as hyperbaric, marine or deep-sea welding is similar to welding on land. They both use the same basic techniques and equipment. So to become an underwater welder, you must first get trained to be a professional welder before learning commercial diving.
Without a doubt, underwater welding is a high-risk occupation but with necessary safety standards and precautions, most of the associated risks can be extensively mitigated.
What Are The Different Types Of Underwater Welding?
There are two major categories of underwater welding, they are:
Dry Underwater Welding
Underwater welding is not only performed with the diver fully submerged: a matter of fact, it is mostly done under dry conditions.
In dry welding, a hyperbaric chamber is designed to give a dry environment. The job is performed in a prevailing atmosphere composed of gas mixtures and void of water. The structure is properly sealed around to ensure reliability and higher quality.
Gas tungsten arc welding is often used for this procedure, and the resulting welds provide overall high integrity. Underwater welding varies in application; it can be used in the repair and construction of ships, pipelines, and offshore platforms. The most common material welded is steel.
Wet Underwater Welding
In comparison, wet underwater welding is performed using shielded metal arc, friction welding, or flux-cored arc welding with the aid of a waterproof electrode. All cases require the welding power supply to be connected to the welding equipment through hoses and cables.
The process is restricted by low carbon equivalent steels, especially in high depth situations, due to hydrogen-caused cracking. Wet welding is best considered as the last resort, unless the repair is a matter of urgency you can’t help with sufficient level of access to the welding region.
Dangers of Underwater Welding
Electrocution: Water (including saltwater) is a good conductor of electricity, posing the risk of electrocution. Having an electric shock while underwater can be deadly and that can happen, especially when welding equipment not adequately adapted to work underwater is used. All tools and equipment must be insulated and waterproof.
Hypothermia: Reduced temperature underwater can conduct heat away from the body. If a person stays in the water for a long time, they risk experiencing metabolic issues or in extreme cases, organ failure. As a precautionary measure, underwater welders are advised to clothe themselves with an insulated rubber wetsuit.
Drowning: Even the best of underwater welders using all the needed equipment can drown. The difference in pressures poses a particular risk to divers, as they can’t be detected with ease. Once you get stuck in the flow, it is hard to escape. Drowning can also be a result of poor maintenance or old gear, like a mask, hose, or an oxygen tank. The workers can get trapped or entangled by their equipment should visibility drop as they go deeper into the water.
Long-term injuries: Spending too much time underwater exposes you to the risk of sustaining permanent damage to critical parts of the body such as the ears, nose, or lungs. Many underwater welders could lose their hearing, develop chronic pain, and worse still, have memory deficits later in life. The high altering pressure and lack of sufficient oxygen can make your body unable to function well. For this purpose, underwater welders would rather take shifts and work in units to ensure that not a single person is submerged for too long.
Damaging psychological effects: Working as an underwater welder can make you prone to mental health deterioration and many permanent mental health issues. You may also suffer anxiety after being so isolated for a relatively long time.
Also, underwater welders can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they are involved in any kind of accident while working underwater. Moreover, any physical condition they return with can cause them to feel secluded and separated from the rest of society. This can result in major depressive disorder and become a long-term battle.
Good Sides to Underwater Welding
High pay: Underwater welding is a well-paid occupation, because of its high risk and challenging nature. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that the median annual wage of commercial divers is around $59,470. If you are able to learn fast and harness your skills, you can expect a significant increase in wage within a short period of time.
Travel opportunities: Underwater welding is an occupation that requires frequent travel. You often get transferred between cities, where you might be stationed for a couple of months before you’re relocated. Although this may not sound enticing to some people, others find it exciting. The travel opportunities are one of the amazing sides of being an underwater welder.
Connection: Over time, teams build interpersonal connections and form a close bond. There are a number of reasons for this: relative isolation, extended periods offshore, and shared fears and objectives. Working in small groups, underwater welders tend to stick together all through their placements. They can end up becoming close buddies, and the bond shared becomes part of the reason the long shifts underwater are tolerable.
Diving: For most underwater welders, the diving aspect of the occupation is to live for. Despite the water pressure and how horrible welding work can be, these people get to dive deep into the ocean and experience all kinds of marine life, exploring different parts of the ocean. Being in such an environment is thrilling and makes you appreciate the beauty of the world.