Welding two pieces of metal together with sparks, fire and electricity is obviously a dangerous part of a technician’s job. Because as an automotive technician you’re not welding all day, the safety precautions that a professional welder takes sometimes go by the wayside.
But even for short periods of welding, you must consider the dangers inherent in the job, and protect yourself with the proper equipment. That includes proper eye wear, gloves, clothing and fume extraction. Proper is the key word here. How many of you techs out there weld or cut with rubber shop gloves on? Do you think that’s going to protect you from flying sparks? Do you think your sunglasses are going to protect your eyes from flash? Think again.
Eye and Face Protection
The major eye and face hazards during welding and cutting include arc and heat rays, flying metal, slag from chipping, dirt and particles from grinding. Because these hazards are so common in welding and cutting environments, proper selection and consistent use of eye and face protection are vital to avoid injury and blindness.
First select the proper protection for the job you’ll be doing. Eye and face protectors for welding and related tasks, such as grinding and chipping, should comply with the requirements of ANSI Z87.1; they should be labeled indicating compliance.
Depending on the specific work task, appropriate eye/face protection may include safety glasses with side protection (side shields or wrap-around frames), goggles, face shields, welding helmets, curtains or combinations of the above.
For all types of electric arc processes, a welding helmet equipped with the correct shade filter, is required. Welders can choose between traditional “fixed-shade” welding filters and “autodarkening” filters (ADF).
Fixed vs. Autodarkening Filters
Fixed-shade filters provide reliable protection as long as they are worn and in the down position. Welders must raise the helmet to see whenever there is no arc, to start a new weld or to inspect a completed weld. This increases the possibility of eye and face injuries from flying metal fragments and “arc flash” or “welder’s eye,” where the surface of the eyeball is burned by arc or heat rays. These limitations also can cause welders to keep their helmet up until the arc is started, further increasing the chances of arc flash. Increased potential for neck injury or muscle strain from continual “snapping” or “nodding” the helmet up or down.
ADFs allow continuous visibility of the work piece and arc zone before, during and after striking an arc, and without raising the helmet. The need for nodding the helmet up or down is eliminated, reducing strain and possible neck injury. Keeping the helmet down more means less chance for eye injuries from flying particles or arc rays.
Things to Remember
Always wear safety glasses with top and side protection under your welding helmet.
Keep eye and face protectors in place whenever the hazards are present. Not using them is the main cause of eye injury.
Use the correct shade of filter in your welding helmet or goggles.
Be sure eye protection devices are not damaged or missing parts, and be sure they fit properly.
Whenever radiation or flying particles and spatter are a hazard, welding helmets should be selected that protect the face, forehead, neck and ears.
Additional protection may be needed for overhead welding, where spatter and rays can bounce back from nearby surfaces, and where hazards are created by nearby workers.
Where feasible, welding areas should be isolated from other work areas by partitions or curtains designed to absorb harmful welding rays.
Whichever type of eyewear you choose, be sure to clean it as needed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and after use by others.
Remember: The safety wear you choose and wear is your first line of defense in preventing eye injury, blindness and burns. In addition to proper safety wear, you should keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Controlling Welding Fumes
Welders are exposed to fumes and gases, and exposures vary depending upon the process and specific working conditions.
Arc welding creates fumes as some of the metal boils from the tip of the electrode and from the surface of molten droplets as they cross the arc. This metal vapor combines with oxygen in the air and solidifies to form tiny fume particles. These particles are visible because of their quantity, but each particle is only between 0.2 and 1.0 micron in size. Since fumes primarily come from the electrode, they consist of oxides of its metals, alloys and flux compounds.
Approaches to controlling welding fumes include reducing fume generation and fume extraction. Some welding manufacturers offer a variety of fume extractors, from small portable designs to large equipment for industrial welding environments.
Designed to reduce welding dust, smoke and fumes in the work environment, some fume extractors filter contaminated air and re-circulate it into the work area. With proper use, this could result in a cleaner work environment and significant energy cost reduction.
Remember to keep your head out of the fumes. Don’t breathe the fumes. Use enough ventilation, exhaust at the arc, or both, to keep fumes and gases from your breathing zone and the general area.
For more safety information, go to the American Welding Society’s website: www.aws.org, or visit the sites of the welding equipment manufacturers.
Sources: The American Welding Society, Lincoln Electric and Miller Electric.