If you have experience welding or are at least familiar with welding, then you are most likely aware of the dangers and hazards that are attached to the trade. One could probably imagine the type of injuries one would face when welding — after all, you’re working with tools that require a lot of heat and pressure. Welding injuries can be all too common, and sometimes pretty severe. There are precautions you can take to make sure you avoid getting hurt, and they can be as simple as wearing the right protective gear and using common sense. This blog will walk you through the most common welding hazards and how you might be able to avoid them.
Any injury having to do with the eyes can sometimes be the most severe because of their fragility and vulnerability. Ultraviolet or infrared light from the welding arc can cause welder’s flash, or arc eye, which can be described as a sunburn on your eye. While you might not feel the symptoms for a couple of hours or even a couple of days after welding, you might experience light sensitivity, extreme eye-dryness, or intense burning. In extreme cases, the UV light can penetrate the retina, causing permanent damage, like cataracts, partial loss of vision, and sensitivity to light. Treatments can include eye drops, pain killers, and even eye patches. This injury, however, extends past the eyes, as it has detrimental effects on the skin as well. Any skin that remains exposed during welding will develop sunburns from the UV light. To ensure eye and skin safety, always wear a welding hood and goggles to protect your eyes and try to keep your head and face an appropriate distance from the arc. To protect your skin, wear welding-appropriate clothing that covers your arms. This will minimize harm from the UV light.
Welders Parkinson’s Disease
Manganism, also known as Welder’s Parkinson’s Disease, is inhaled through toxic fumes. This poses more of a threat, as it is a material found in welding rods and electrodes. Welding releases manganese molecules into the air, which are, in turn, inhaled, deeply affecting the nervous system. Exposure to manganese will produce symptoms like dementia, anxiety, and a “mask-like” face. Although these symptoms resemble Parkinson’s’ disease, the toxin itself lives within its own category — manganese poisoning. Manganism lowers the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, responsible for motor function, and welders who have manganism will often be stiff, have problems with balance, exhibit slow movement, and will have problems moving muscles in the face. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Welders who are in the later stages of manganism will experience sleep disorders, slurred speech, and short-term memory loss. Welders with manganism do not respond to Parkison-related treatments, and the symptoms of manganism cannot be reversed or cured with brain damage being permanent.
Not only does inhaling manganese compromise your nervous system health, but it also threatens your respiratory health. These toxins may accumulate in the lungs, potentially leading to long-term respiratory illness conditions.
Fire and Electrical Injuries
At this point, it is hopefully common knowledge that welding requires an immense amount of heat to weld two metals together. Many welding processes can produce a spatter, which is just intensely hot metal and sparks that, when coming into contact with skin, can produce second – and even third-degree burns. Spatter may reach a temperature of up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and may reach up to 35 feet away from the welding space. Spatter and sparks can ignite surrounding materials and even clothing, so it is important to wear protective welding equipment that will protect your skin from the hot, liquid metal. To prevent fires and explosions, all flammable materials should be removed from the welding space. If you cannot remove flammable materials, then they should be covered by fire-resistant materials.
Fire and hot metal only make up a small portion of the dangers what welders should be wary about when working. Electrical hazards can also be quite common, which is why it is important to locate a Class C fire extinguisher nearby, which is for electrical fires only. Throwing water on an electrical fire won’t work, as water and electricity don’t mix. Another concern around working with electricity is an electric shock, which can lead to severe injury, and sometimes death. An electric shock can occur when a welder inserts themselves into the electrical circuit when they touch metals that carry a voltage between them.
Electric shock can be avoided with dry gloves. It is also important to never touch the electrode holder or other metal parts with exposed skin or wet clothing. Thorough inspections of welding equipment are also recommended, so repairs and replacements can be caught before tragedy strikes.
There are many dangers that come when you choose to weld. The above outlines a few of them, but ear injuries from excessive noise and injuries from insufficient personal protective equipment are also quite common. Besides common sense, there are a few resources you can utilize when you make welding your profession. OSHA and the American Welding Society have more information about hazards and following safety practices. Further, it should also be your employer’s priority to explain these dangers, detail their safety procedures, and locate their safety equipment.
Welding, despite its dangers, can still be a fulfilling career. To begin your welding journey and to learn more about the trade, enroll in Missouri Welding Institute today!