While modern technology has made large strides with the use of robotic welding, robots can’t do it all – so steps need to be taken to protect a welder and help remove the risks they will encounter throughout their workday. The safety professionals at OSEA provide the advice of removing workplace hazards through engineering controls when the hazard can’t just be eliminated. For areas where this isn’t possible, personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered a last resort, but is critical for protecting employees from exposure and injury caused by known risks. Employees performing and employees exposed to the hazards of welding will require a variety of PPE in order to eliminate the many risks that they encounter on a daily basis.
Below are 7 Key areas of PPE that are needed for the safety of Welders
1) Hand Protection
Hand protection is probably the most commonly used PPE. Flying sparks, heat, and sharp objects are encountered throughout the day. A welder will require a variety of gloves in order to work comfortably all day. Cut resistant gloves, welding gloves, hand shields, and leather gloves all serve different protection for the various hazards that exist. There are specific ANSI standards for gloves, such as ANSI /ISEA 105 on cut resistance as well as for Arc Flash protection, so selection must be based on the performance characteristics of the glove in relation to the tasks being performed. For chemical exposures, the SDS will list the appropriate protection.
2) Skin protection
Skin protection is also considered critical. Clothing for welders should be made from cotton or wool of a dense weave, preferably treated with flame-retardant coatings. Polyester, acetate or acrylic clothing (or combinations of these) with cotton or wool should not be worn as these materials are flammable and will melt onto the skin while burning.
3) Eye and face protection
A welder’s eye and face must be protected against exposure to UV radiation, hot metal, sparks, and flying objects. A welding helmet, welding beanie, face shield, safety glasses, and/or safety goggles may all be required throughout the day in order protect a welder’s eyes. Eye and face protection provided to employees should comply with ANSI Z87.1-1989 and head protection must meet ANSI Z89.1-1986 standards.
4) Individual booths
Additionally, where the work permits, the welder should be enclosed in an individual booth. The booth should be composed of noncombustible UV protective rated screens or curtains. Booths, curtains, and screens should permit circulation of air at floor level. Workers or other persons adjacent to the welding areas may need to be protected from rays by UV protective screens or shields; or they may be required to wear appropriate goggles/safety glasses. Welding out in the facility may also require a “Hot Work” permit as a fire prevention tool.
5) Foot protection
A welders feet must also be protected from falling objects, flying sparks, and hot slag. Closed toed, leather, high top shoes will provide the best protection. Welding spats and other heat resistant foot/leg covers can provide additional protection. Safety shoes must meet the ANSI Z41.1-1991 or ASTM F2413-05 foot protection standards.
6) Hearing protection
Hearing protection is often required in order to reduce exposure to noise hazards created during the welding process. If employees are exposed to noise hazards over 85 dBA (decibels measured on the A scale of a sound level meter) a hearing conservation program must be implemented. There are a large variety of earplugs and earmuffs that will provide comfortable protection against hearing loss. A hearing conservation program must be in compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95.
7) Respiratory protection
Respiratory protection may also be required in order to eliminate employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases, and/or dusts. Air quality testing for the welders breathing zone need to be performed to quantify the exposure level. Engineering controls such as mechanical ventilation, local exhaust systems and fume hoods should be implemented as much as possible in order to eliminate the risk of exposure. Employers must ensure that employees are not exposed to toxic fumes, gases and/or dusts above the maximum allowable concentrations as specified in 29 CFR 1910.1000 (Toxic and Hazardous Substances). Selection of the method of protection is dependent on the exposure being dealt with and the protection level required to obtain a safe breathable atmosphere. Any company that requires their employees to wear respirators must have a respiratory protection plan that meets the ensures compliance with the OSHA requirements for Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134
When it comes to welding safety and the protection of workers you must understand the exposure, hazards and proper protective methods. The health hazards and injuries possible are too numerous to mention here, but understand failure to protect will cause harm!
Environmental Health & Safety Manager, OSEA, Inc.