10 Welding Safety Tips for Beginners
Welding Safety is essential because it should go without saying that welding is a hazardous activity. In fact, without the proper welding safety precautions, the risks to your health and safety are innumerable. This is especially true for beginners, who lack experience of welding safely.
As such, it’s essential to follow key safety advice when you take up welding for the first time. Failing to do so can easily lead to injury, ill health, or even death.
Some of the most obvious hazards faced by beginner welders include burns, electrical shocks, toxic fumes and explosions. However, new welders also face subtler hazards, like long term damage to their vision or hearing.
WIth that in mind, let’s look at 10 easy ways to keep safe as a beginner welder.
Invest in Proper Welding PPE
These days, most people associate personal protective equipment (PPE) with hospital workers. However, welding specific PPE has been around for as long as welding itself. Wearing it is just as important as ever.
At a bare minimum, your welding PPE list should include:
- A welder’s helmet – This provides protection for your vision, as well as your face and head,
- Flame proof cover-alls – These reduce the risk of burns and other fire related injuries,
- Welding gloves – Gloves prevent injuries to your hands while welding, such as burns or abrasions,
- Protective footwear – Welding boots flameproof and provides protection from falling objects and chemical spills,
- Ear & eye protection – Welding presents a number of risks to your hearing and vision, so it’s crucial to take precautions to prevent these.
It’s also crucial to wear your welding PPE properly. Many beginners overlook this. For example, you should never roll up your sleeves while welding, or tuck your trousers into your boots. This is to prevent sparks from getting trapped in the folds in your clothing.
Similarly, it’s critical that your welding gloves fit properly. Gloves which are too large or too small may restrict movement, causing poor control over your torch. This can easily lead to accidents and incidents.
Improper ventilation is one of the most common welding hazards. The welding process can emit a number of hazardous materials, including smoke, toxic fumes and harmful particulates.
Prolonged exposure to all of these can cause serious breathing problems. Inhaling large volumes of harmful material can also cause lung damage in the short term. In extreme cases, you may lose consciousness due to lack of oxygen.
All of these hazards can be avoided by using proper ventilation equipment.
Ventilation equipment for welding comes in two categories. The first is local exhaust ventilation (LEV). These are tools which are dedicated to ventilating your work area, such as extraction booths, or work benches with built-in ventilation.
The second is respiratory protective equipment (RPE), such as air fed welding helmets, or other wearable breathing apparatus.
Declutter your Workspace for Welding Safety
Clutter can cause a range of accidents and incidents while welding. These range from common problems, like tripping, to more specific issues, such as cluttered workspaces becoming a fire hazard.
In either case, having a simple routine for cleaning and decluttering your welding area can easily save lives.
Easy ways to build a decluttering habit include setting aside time every day for tidying, and providing bins within easy reach of your workspace.
Choose the Right Welding Machine for your Space
Different welding machines are best for different working environments. For instance, lightweight and portable machines are best for outdoor projects, or cramped spaces.
However, even in a traditional workshop, there are a range of safety considerations when choosing a welding machine. For instance, a workshop with a lot of workspace can easily use heavy duty welding equipment.
If you have a small work space, you might choose a small machine for its smaller footprint. Many busy workshops prefer boom-mounted wire feeders to improve portability and reduce the risk of trips and falls.
Avoid Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are a risk in just about every activity. However, as welding presents so many other hazards, RSIs can easily be overlooked. This is problematic for a number of reasons.
For one thing, welding equipment is heavy. This increases the risk of developing an RSI while performing a repetitive movement.
RSIs can be prevented by using proper welding posture. You should also take regular breaks, and perform range of motion exercises to reduce the risk of a movement related injury.
Use Vision Protection
When welding, you face a number of risks to your eyes and vision. Even in normal circumstances, prolonged exposure to the extreme light of a welding arc can cause vision problems.
When something goes wrong, additional problems can occur. These include excessive sparks, flying debris and even explosions. As such, one of the most important welding safety precautions is selecting the appropriate safety glasses.
Additionally, auto-darkening welding helmets are now affordable for even hobbyists. They’re also a fantastic investment, which will see you through years of happy and safe welding.
Secure your Gas Cylinder
Gas cylinders are an accident waiting to happen. At the best of times, they can be a trip hazard. This is much worse when they aren’t secured in a safe and discreet location. Most gas cylinders will roll on the ground, which can cause serious accidents in the workshop.
Obviously, gas cylinders can also be highly flammable and welding workshops have open flames. When you combine these two facts, you can encounter some serious hazards if your gas cylinder is not properly secured in a safe location.
Avoid Water and Clean up Spillages Immediately
Water is a great conductor of electricity. Because of this, it’s crucial that you only weld in a dry environment. This includes everything from mending your fence in the rain, to working near a glass of water.
Even a small amount of liquid in the wrong place can result in death by electrocution.
Many beginner welders don’t take this seriously, but the importance of cleaning up spills can’t be stressed enough. The more spill management precautions you take the better. If anything is spilled in your workspace, stop what you’re doing immediately and clean it up.
Use Hearing Protection
Just like vision protection, it’s vital that you protect your hearing as a beginner welder. This is probably one of the most overlooked welding safety precautions.
Welding creates risks to your hearing in both the immediate term and over longer periods of time. The right hearing protection can prevent this.
Prolonged exposure to the moderately loud sounds of a welder can result in tinnitus. This is when you hear a constant ringing because of damage to your inner ear. Sudden loud noises can also cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.
Take Fire Safety Precautions while Welding
Finally, welding presents a number of fire hazards. We’ve already discussed some of these. No matter the source of the blaze, your welding workshop should be kitted out with a number of fire safety features.
At a basic level, this includes accessible fire extinguishers and welding blankets. It’s also important to note that welding accidents can cause electrical, chemical and metal fires. As such, you need to have a plan in place for each of these.
If you follow all of the above tips and remain vigilant, you can safely enjoy years of happy and productive welding.