Friday, January 29, 2016

2 Greatest Keys to Safety in Welding

Measures to safety in welding do more than just establishing and maintaining compliance with regulatory guidelines. 

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Different welding operations have different needs. Processes, equipment and welder skill set vary. Similarly, different companies have different safety requirements. But employee safety always should be prioritized. Taking the right precautions to protect your welders can limit the negative effects on production, and increase your employee acceptance of safety regulations. 

What can you benefit from developing a safe work environment?

A safe welding environment can save your money by decreasing liabilities.
It can help attract and retain skilled employees. Attraction and retention of good welders are extremely important considering the welding skills shortage. 

You can learn more about welding skills gap and how to overcome it here:

Directly involving employees in efforts to developing a safer work environment is beneficial to employee morale. That’s because it would empower your welders themselves to be proactive in keeping themselves safe. 

Keys to a safe welding environment

To create a clean, safe and comfortable work environment, consider hazard assessments, training, communication and appropriate selections of welding safety products. 

1. Hazard assessments

Serious safety fail
Carry out hazard assessments to unfold problematic areas within your workshop. The assessment should include workers and potentially an industrial hygienist. This practice not just betters your understanding of the welding environment, but encourages both managers and welders to pay closer attention to the safety details that may otherwise pass unnoticed. 

Engage workers in hazard assessments by reviewing the recordable injuries and potential safety risks, and then working with them for corrective actions. Managers should also challenge workers to look at overall safety in the weld cell and suggest improvements. 

Also, you can assess and address welding safety hazards utilizing OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls. This hierarchy consists of 4 steps – process modification/ substitution, engineering controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Specifically,

Process modification/ substitution: Changing the entire welding process or adjusting it can help improve safety. For example, you may want to replace manual welding with automatic welding. That so doing can create more efficiency in production for some applications, while also enhancing safety by creating a barrier between your operator and process. This approach can be costly and doesn’t suit to all applications.

Engineering controls: If welding fume is a problem with your facility, you can install fume extraction system to minimize exposure to your welders. 

Work practice controls: You can directly involve your workers with organizing the weld cell and applying lean initiatives (5S, etc.). These practices help create effective workflow and safer work-space. Activities range from organizing equipment and tools to reducing slips, trips and falls.  When having the right tools nearby, workers will be less fatigued while improving their work productivity. 

PPE: To select the correct PPE for the job, you should conduct a job safety analysis. The goal is to find the PPE that provides the appropriate level of protection and don’t interfere with a welder’s normal activities at the same time.

2. Training

Always communicate changes implemented as a result of hazard assessments, and train workers appropriately if a process has changed or new product introduced. Topics to cover in the training often include:

Review of the hazard assessment process, the findings and actions.
The OSHA regulations related to the hazard found and solutions to it. 
How to use the safety products or processes applied in routine and emergency situations.
Proper maintenance practices for safety equipment.

You can rely on qualified veteran workers to conduct peer training, which would encourage positive interaction among your workers. Also, in some cases, equipment manufacturers and distribution partners provide product training for their customers.

3. Communication


Share findings, changes and improvements with both managers and welders. Frequent safety discussions encourage worker involvement, cement relationships with the organization and help monitor and assess safety initiatives consistently.

4. Selecting welding safety products

Having the suitable safety products is crucial in the welding environment. And it goes beyond compliance – it has to do with helping welders achieve greater safety and comfort. Consider the following:

Welding apparel and gloves

These items should fit properly and come in good condition. Proper fit would help minimize injuries and encourages welders to continue wearing the gear for such other tasks as grinding, material handling. There are items available for superior fit – for example, gloves with 3-D pattern for maximized dexterity. 

Importantly, always select the proper protection for each application. Make sure you consider the material type and thicknesses of the product. For instance, there are light and heavy duty welding jackets and gloves for various welding processes and levels of amperage. Involve workers in this selection process. If welders like the products, they will be more likely to take proper care of them. 

Clean and replace the welding apparel and gloved as recommended by the manufacturer, or sooner if needed. 

Welding helmets

Select helmets depending on the welding application. Be sure to adjust the headgear properly for best protection and clear viewing area. Always read the manual and follow the instructions for adjustment. 

Such features as electromagnetic sensing can also help improve welders’ safety and comfort, especially if the welders have an obstructed view of weld joint. This technology, indeed, works through sensors that pick up the arc’s magnetic frequency, eliminating obstruction-caused interference issues. 

Welding respirators

Respirators are categorized as air-purifying or atmosphere-supplying. The air-purifying respirators come with filters and/ or cartridges that eliminate contaminants from the air by filtering them before they reach the welder. The atmosphere-supplying respirators offer clean air from an uncontaminated source. Use assigned protection factor (APF) rating to know the workplace level of protection that each respirator is expected to give when maintained properly.

Be sure to select respirators suitable for welding. Disposable masks must be made of the flame-retardant filter media. Half-mask respirators should be low profile to fit comfortably under the welding helmet without obstructing a welder’s field of vision. Similarly, powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) and low-profile supplied-air respirators helps enhance operator mobility. Be sure that these are paired with the welding helmet that fits application requirements. Again, encourage a panel of welders to involve in the selection process. You can also consult with an industrial hygienist for particular details for each welding operation and respirator type. 

To instruct welders about mandatory and voluntary usage, you need develop a written respiratory protection program with such information as respirator selection, medical evaluations, fit-testing for tight-fitting aspirators, use in routine and emergency situations, established schedules for cleaning, procedures to ensure the air quality and airflow for the atmosphere-supplying respirators, employee training.

Welding fume extractors

If your company uses the fume extraction systems, welders should understand how to use these machines properly for best protection result. 

The fume extraction arm should be mounted at a 45-degree angle above the arc, at most 18 inches away from the welding area. Still, because welders focus so much on the quality and productivity, they may not always make such adjustments to the arm. There are fume extraction systems in the market that provide an extended fume-capture distance. With them, welders can position the arm at the beginning of welding to gain protection throughout the process. 

Heat stress equipment

Heat stress results from high-temperature environment, welding arc, protective clothing. It can reduce productivity and raise errors. Indeed, productivity decreases by 2% for every degree over 77oF.

Solutions to heat stress can be - using cooling products, choosing the right apparel. Cooling products help reduce body temperature and improve workers’ well-being. Some cooling devices adapt to the welding helmets to give constant airflow over the welder’s head and face; these can lower the temperature by up to 17 degrees. Selecting the right apparel can also tackle heat stress. For example, in warmer climates, select lighter-weight welding jackets that are still capable of giving the right level of protection. 

To wrap up,

Welder involvement and appropriate safety products are the rightest keys to safety welding. Implementing welding safety measures doesn’t need to be a top-down activity. Involving workers and encouraging them to give insight can go far in developing a safe welding operation and sustaining it. Also, selecting dependable safety equipment is important. More durable items last longer, reducing costs. Safety products fitting well and easy to use would reduce downtime and raise worker acceptance. 

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  1. With increased automation, processes that were too hazardous for workers in the long run have been replaced with computer controlled machines. The CNC plasma cutter is one such machine that can cut various metals to the desired shape as the operator supervises the entire operation.
    informative post

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  3. Thank you for Welding and cutting safety hazard explanations. thank you nice article