Monday, September 21, 2015

Welding Health Hazards and Prevention That Your Welders Must Know About (Part 2)

Welding may be a lucrative job, but it comes with health hazards that your welders must familiarize with and have ways to minimize their exposure to those dangers. By so doing, they will enjoy their work more.

Related reading:

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2. Hand-arm vibration

Concerning hand-arm vibration (HAV), there are specific risks with such tasks as grinding and needle scaling that are closely related to the welding process. Its potential health effects include musculoskeletal, vascular and neural disorders that can get debilitating and often go unrecognized or unreported at early stages. The combination of cold working environments and cold weather apparel can raise the risk of the HAV syndrome, vibration white finger, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome. 

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Fingers become white due to lack of flood flow, then blue because vessels dilate to keep blood in tissues, and finally red since blood flow returns.

How to prevent

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) require you to ensure all the risks are controlled and give instruction and training to welders on the risks associated and actions being taken to handle them. Those regulations include an EAV (exposure action value) and ELV (exposure limit value) based on the combination of vibration at the grip points of the equipment and the time for gripping it. For better understanding of those values, you can refer to HSE hand-arm vibration exposure calculator. To ensure that cases are caught early, a system of health surveillance has been mandatory for all workers exposed above the exposure action values.

By obeying the regulations, you will help prevent disability from HAV syndrome and vibration related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Some workers may develop early signs and symptoms of HAV and CTS even at low exposures though, your health surveillance should define any issues early on. Proper action will ease the problem. Whilst HAV symptoms can be averted, it can’t be cured once the damage has been done.

Some cases of HAV and all cases of vibration related CTS must be reported to HSE in line with the RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).

Regardless of regulations, not few workers in industry will be exposed to the vibration levels that may cause damage. Improvement of tool design and maintenance, improvement of damping and reduction of the level of time exposing to such tools will alleviate the risk. Gloves keep hands warm, and thereby will lower the amount of blanching (whitening) experience, but there is no proof that they will avert the condition.

3. Noise

Except for Tig welding, electric arc welding can produce harmful levels of noise. The other tasks that welders will commonly do and the work environment are also really noisy. This list gives you a nice idea of the noise levels related to different tasks in the welding process:

Tig: over 75 dB(A)
Manual Metal Arc (MMA): 85-95 dB(A)
Metal Inert Gas(MIG): 95-102 dB(A)
Plasma cutting (hand-held up to 100A, cutting up to 25mm only): 98-105 dB(A)
Flame gouging: 95 dB(A)
Flame cutting: up to 100 dB(A)
Air arc gouging: 100-115 dB(A)
Deslagging/chipping: 105 dB(A)
Grinding: 95-105 dB(A)

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Noise pollution prevention is crucial.

How to prevent

The best way to manage this problem is to get rid of the noisy process altogether. For instance, this mayn’t always be feasible but you can buy in material cut to size by the supplier. After the hierarchy of control, the next best options are substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls like training and work scheduling, and then finally PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

Ear plugs, ear muffs, or other hearing protection should be chosen based on the below criteria:

1. Ability to reduce noise exposure
2. Compatibility with other items of PPE – for example, welding helmets (helpful options include slim line ear muffs with the neck band rather than a head band)
3. Comfort
4. Suitability for the activity and work environment

If PPE if offered, it is vital that your welders are given proper training to ensure they wear their protection in the correction fashion and at all required times.

4. Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD)

The manual handling implemented by welders that are regularly repeated or involve twisting and turning into the awkward postures can be especially hazardous.

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Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD)

Early indications of MSD include tingling, numbness, pain, restriction of joint movement, or soft tissue swelling. As shown in studies, recurring or persistent general shoulder pain is often reported by welders. Also, they experience lower extremity MSDs, strains, sprains of low back muscles, and associated low back disorders. 

Some MSDs gradually develop over time due to intensive work. When the working environment requires workers to assume static or awkward body postures for a prolonged period of time, the workers may be exposed to MSDs. Also, the development of MSDs may be associated with genetic causes, gender, age and other factors. Finally, evidently, reports of MSDs may be connected with some psychosocial factors like job dissatisfaction, limited job control. 

In case you are interested in:

How to prevent

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require you to consider the risks to health and safety of employees when selecting the equipment that they will use. This includes risks related manual handling. Selecting the right tool will diminish the chances of:

Personal suffering due to musculoskeletal disorders
Financial burden of sickness absence and higher issuance premiums
Lowered productivity
Restricting the earning potential of workers unable to return to the same type of work.

The management also should develop a proper process of protecting their workers – that is, providing management support, involving workers, providing training, defining problems, implementing solutions, addressing reports of injuries, evaluating progress. 

Additionally, there are some hazards to health and safety that employers should also take good control. For example,

5. Optical radiation

The welding process generates a large amount of visible light, ultraviolet and infrared. Exposure to radiation from an arc can cause skin burns and eye damage. That’s why welders need wear clothing to protect their bodies and arms, no matter what weather conditions. Also, they need efficient eye protection, which is often given in the form of a protection shield. The precise selection of the shade of glass filter in those shields relies on the type of welding operation, because they vary in their light output.

Welder assistants also need eye protection and protective clothing. Passers-by should be protected to putting opaque or appropriately filtered screens around the working area.

6. Burns and mechanical hazards

Welders need qualified gloves, leather gauntlets to be preferable, safety boots or shoes, and qualified cap and overalls. Also, a leather apron may be needed. Welding creates a number of molten droplets of metal that are scattered in all directions. Essentially, the welders wear clothing that won’t burn or melt.

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Welding creates a number of molten droplets of metal that are scattered in all directions. Essentially, the welders wear clothing that won’t burn or melt.

As a whole,

Health and safety in the welding industry have witnessed a significant improvement over the last few years though, to be fair, there is still work to be done. In most countries, there is extensive legislation that assigns responsibilities to employers to take reasonable care of health and safety at work for their workers, including the workshop environment, electrical safety, fume, noise, hand-arm vibration, MSD, optical radiation, burns and mechanical hazards, gas bottles, welding in difficult situations (ex. Outdoors, confined spaces, etc.) Above specifies of top hazards and their management can help employers with such crucial responsibilities. 

1 comment:

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