OSHA: Welding Standard for Injury Prevention
OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910 deals with welding safety and states that welding equipment must be safe for the worker. Welding equipment must not expose the worker to injury caused by heat, excessive fumes and high voltage.
OSHA Welding Standards
Welding safety standards address health concerns as well as reliability of welding equipment. OSHA standards related to welding cover four major areas:
- Airborne hazards- OSHA standards address the hazards that are present in the fumes and gases which are released when welding. They are designed to protect the operators from exposure to these harmful gases by regulating the types of materials used and monitoring the levels in the environment.
- Safe welding procedures- specifications, standards and regulations are meant to make the welding process safe for the worker. These procedures also help in attaining the required quality of finished work
- Welding equipment safety- the equipment used must be of a standard that ensures the safety of the person working with them. They must also not cause any hazards to the facility because of non-adherence to industry specification on their use
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – PPE are a mandatory requirement of OSHA standards and regulations. PPE mitigate against the risks inherent the workplace and protect operators from injuries that may arise during the cause of their work
Welding by its very nature is a hazardous occupation that can result in serious injuries due to the high energy requirements of the welding equipment used. The injuries that are caused through unsafe welding practices are:
- Eye injuries
- Breathing Complications
These injuries can result in permanent incapacitation of the operators of the equipment and must be prevented using personal protective equipment together with other safe practices.
Welders’ flash occurs when the eyes are exposed to the bright ultraviolet (UV) light produced by arc welding equipment. The flash burn is a painful inflammation of the cornea that normal heals on its own after some time. However, prolonged exposure to UV light can lead to permanent eye damage if not treated promptly.
The symptoms of welders’ flash include blurred vision, watery eyes, mild pain and bloodshot eyes. Treatment is through use of appropriate eye-drops, dressing using a light pad and sometimes use of antibiotics is necessary when infection is apparent.
Some welders are prone to lung infections caused by the breathing in of fumes produced by welding processes. Some scientific studies revealed that pneumonia, asthma and lung cancer can be caused by repeated inhalation of welding fumes. Some welders have also been reported to suffer from Metal Fume Fever due to exposure to the fumes. Pulmonary oedema or fluids in the lungs has also been attributed to the gases and minute particles that are released by welding processes.
Because welding involves melting of metal at very high temperatures, incidents of burns resulting from accidents are not uncommon. These accidents in many cases are caused by welders failing to take the prescribed precautions such as the use of personal protective equipment and following of the laid down standards. Welding burns can be of varying degrees of severity, ranging from first degree burns which are superficial, to the more serious third degree burns which go deep into the skin tissue.
Welding Safety Equipment
There are a number of essential protective equipment that are available for use in a welding environment:
- Eye and face protection: Includes welding helmets, hand shields and googles. These are designed to protect the operator from radiation, sparks, chemical burns and light
- Lung protection: Respirators are used to protect the lungs from dangerous fumes and oxidizing agents
- Skin protection: Fire-proof clothing and aprons protect the welder’s skin from heat and flames that can result in serious burns.
- Ear protection: Earmuffs and earplugs protect against noise in the welding area. The earmuffs and plugs must be fire-resistant because flying sparks can easily enter the welder’s ear
- Foot and hand protection: Electric shock, burns and heat produced by welding equipment can be prevented using gloves and safety boots.
The helmet much be made from shatterproof and fire resistant casing and glass. Helmets much be well fitting in order to provide maximum protection.
Welding Respirator Safety
These provide the same protection as the welding helmet but must be held with one hand. The shield must be held closely to prevent reflection of light that may diminish the working experience.