Welding is an essential profession in the construction sector. It adds to large structures like bridges, sewer pipes, and ships; it’s also a respectable, well-paying career with the opportunity to travel in some situations. Despite its importance, I often wonder if welding is a dangerous job.
Welding comes with a lot of risks. Ergonomics, electric shock, UV light, hazardous chemicals and gases, heat, and noise are potential hazards. While most welding dangers are apparent, such as extreme heat and harmful UV radiation, they can also offer hidden concerns, such as breathing problems, which take time to manifest.
While welding is a valuable and rewarding trade with several benefits, there are some significant risks to be aware of before picking a welding career. In this article, I will discuss the job’s nature, work environment, risks and safety.
What is Welding?
Welding is a process of connecting metals and, in some instances, other materials such as specialty thermoplastics using intense heat. Welding is joining metals by melting and fusing them using heat. When the molten metal cools, the metal pieces are linked together, frequently under pressure.
Welding is a procedure that uses highly high-energy sources. Electric current for arc welding, burning chemical gases, lasers, high-intensity ultrasound, and even direct pressure to heat and fuse materials are among them. Some welding techniques do not require oxygen from the air and may be performed both underwater and in space and a standard setting.
The Working Environment for Welders
Welders are essential in constructing heavy bridges, sewers, and machinery. Depending on the assigned task, Welders may need to work at high heights on building sites or scaling a scaffold with heavy equipment. Welders may be demanded to contort themselves into awkward positions or work for long periods on their knees, crouching, lying down, or reaching overhead.
Welders face challenging working circumstances. Working in harsh heat and cold can be a part of outdoor welding employment. Other weather conditions, such as rain or snow, might impact a welder. Heat exhaustion is a risk for welders who operate indoors in cramped spaces with minimal air.
Welders are also known for working long days. Construction is a schedule-driven sector, with workers working two entire shifts or sometimes 24 hours a day. Welders typically earn overtime for working long hours, which is a welcome addition to their otherwise little pay, but it may make for a long and exhausting day.
Welder Safety Gear
Welders must wear heavy and uncomfortable safety gear because welding is such a dangerous job. The details will vary depending on the task and the techniques used. Still, a welder’s outfit should comprise the following: Heavy-duty safety shoes, heat-resistant heavy gloves with extended cuffs, extreme eye protection, such as goggles, masks, helmets, and handheld safety shields fall-prevention safety harnesses, and fire- and heat-resistant clothing.
Welding in extreme environments, such as outer space, underwater, or in extremely cold or scorching temperatures, will, of course, necessitate even more specialized equipment to keep the welder relatively safe. Not only from the welding equipment but also the hazardous environment they are working in.
Adverse Effects of Welding
Usually, the welding process produces a wide range of radiation, from infrared heat to ultraviolet light. Welding in a high-energy environment, using reactive chemicals, and having gases and particles may lead to sickness, injuries, and accidents. Some adverse effects caused by welding include
The presence of highly-heated materials and sources can easily result in burns from fire, sparks, or flammable substances. Welding arcs and flames produce powerful visible, ultraviolet, and infrared radiation to burn unprotected skin. Infrared and visible light does not affect the skin in most cases, but long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer.
The high-intensity UV rays produced by the arc welding process generate incredibly intense light that can easily damage eyesight. The UV radiation from welding torches causes flash burns in the eyes resulting in arc eyes. Flash burns in the eyes are similar to sunburn and can damage both eyes.
When affected, it takes one to two days for your cornea to recover, and it usually does so without leaving a scar. However, if the flash burn isn’t treated, an infection might develop; this can be dangerous and result in visual loss. To safeguard their eyes, welders must use a variety of eye protection and specific shields.
The presence of conductive metals and the high electric current utilized in many welding techniques increase the danger of severe shocks. Electrocution is most likely to occur when a welder comes into contact with two metal items with a voltage differential. Electrical shock is a dangerous hazard resulting in serious injury or death.
Welders can experience muscular injuries, cuts, crushed toes and fingers, and other physical injuries from the high-pressure operations, sharp-edged materials, and challenging work environments that typically accompany the welding process. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is useful to keep welding operators free from injury. The right PPE would provide adequate protection from welding hazards and allow free and easy movement.
Welding emits fumes and particles that are hazardous to inhale. Welding fume contains potentially dangerous complex metal oxide compounds from consumables, base metal, and base-metal coatings. Workers close to welding activities must also be protected from fumes, particulates, and sparks.
When exposed to welding fumes for a long period can cause illness to the lungs and raise the risk of occupational asthma and cancer. Lung illness and occupational asthma can be caused by fume and dust from allied activities. You are at risk of acquiring silicosis if you are exposed to RCS.