Welding is a process that uses heat to melt two or more metal pieces to create a stable joint. The heat sources for welding processes include electron beams, plasma arcs, electrical current, etc. the chances of electric shock are high, so what causes the most electric shock in the welding industry?
Contact with a part of the welding electrode or the welding circuit causes the most electric shock in the welding industry. The volts that cause the shock can range from 20 to 100 volts, and the shock can occur even when you are not using your welding machine.
This article discusses how to prevent electric shock in welding and what causes the most electric shock in the welding industry. I also talk about other welding hazards and how to avoid them
How Do You Prevent Electric Shock in Welding?
The human body is a conduit for electricity, and even low currents may cause severe health problems. Depending on the amount of current passing through the body, spasms, muscle paralysis, burns, or death can result.
The duration of exposure and the route it takes also influence the effects on the body. Electric shock is one of the most common risks a welder faces and preventing it is paramount to your health and productivity. You can prevent/avoid electric shocks by doing the following:
- Insulating yourself from the metals you use in welding.
- Avoid skin contact with the metal parts or electrodes.
- Use dry insulation between your body and the ground.
- Wearing dry clothing and gloves.
- Properly inspect the electrode holder and welding equipment before using them.
- When doing repairs, perform tagout and lockout procedures. Also, only qualified technicians should handle repairs.
Paying keen attention to these measures will greatly reduce the exposure to and detrimental effects of electric shocks in welding.
What Causes the Most Electric Shock in the Welding Industry?
Two types of shock accidents can occur during welding. They appear under different circumstances and have varying effects on the body. Here is a description of the kinds of electric shocks:
- Primary shock or primary voltage shock
With volts ranging from 200 to 600, this is the most dangerous of the two types. It occurs when you simultaneously touch the inside of a welding machine and other grounded metal or the welding case.
- Secondary shock or secondary voltage shock
This is the most common type of electric shock in the welding industry. A secondary shock occurs when you touch a part of the electrode or welding circuit, releasing volts ranging from 20 to 100.
A shock of 50 volts or fewer is enough to injure or kill an operator, depending on the conditions.
Alternating Current (AC) welders constantly change polarity, making it more likely to stop the heart than Direct Current (DC) machines. It is also more likely to prevent the person holding the wire from releasing it.
Even if the shock itself does not harm you, it can cause you to lose your balance and fall from a height. As mentioned earlier, follow safety measures and try not to insert yourself between two metal objects with a voltage between them.
How Many Hazards Occur When Welding?
Welding stands as a separate technical field, having over 70 different welding processes. Some common welding techniques are Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Submerged Arc Welding (SAW), Flux-cored Arc Welding (FCAW), and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
These welding procedures pose certain health hazards for operators of the welding equipment and other workers in the vicinity—exposure to ultraviolet radiation and toxic metal fumes. The actual welding operation can cause electric shock, cuts, eye damage, burns, etc.
I have discussed electrical shock in the former portions of this article, so I will describe other hazards that occur during welding as follows:
- Fumes and gases
Welding exposes machine operators to invisible gaseous fumes like nitrogen, ozone, carbon monoxide, chromium, and nickel oxides. Gas concentration and the duration of exposure determine the level of damage.
Acute exposure can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, dizziness, and nausea. Prolonged exposure leads to more severe consequences, including lung damage, stomach ulcers, kidney damage, nervous system damage, cancers of the lung and larynx.
- To minimize exposure, keep your head out of the fume plume, weld in a well-ventilated area, use approved respiratory devices when the ventilation is inadequate, and monitor contaminant levels to determine air quality before working in an area.
- Physical hazards
Burns, cuts, crushed fingers, and eye damage are some physical hazards that can occur during welding. Wearing adequate Personal Protective Equipment reduces these hazards significantly.
Protective equipment includes helmets, respirators, earmuffs, fireproof clothing, boots, and gloves. Helmets protect you from radiation particles, chemical burns, and physical debris. They also have a shield that keeps your eyes safe while you work.
- Earmuffs handle noise hazards and vibrations in the workplace, gloves, and clothing are fireproof, and respirators keep your lungs free from toxic fumes.
The sparks that welding generates can spray up to 35 feet and start fires. Workers with grease on their clothes have the highest risk of getting burnt. To mitigate the risks, keep flammable chemicals away from welding spaces.
You can also declutter your working space, getting rid of flammable materials. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, use fire-resistant shields if you cannot move flammable materials, and store combustible substances (like wood and gasoline) away from the workspace.
Pay special attention to your environment, especially when working in a confined space.
Dusty locations with a high concentration of fine particles may result in an explosion or flash fire if the particles oxidize.
If your company organizes regular training sessions on protective measures and ensures compliance among all staff, they can eliminate most of these hazards. When you ensure your safety, you also ensure the safety of those around you.
Many welding codes have specifications for safety, including measures to take when welding outdoors or in various weather. Be sure to adhere to all codes and instructions as much as possible. Safety first, and always!