Creating a Safe Environment While Gas Metal Arc Welding
You can make sure you are following the best preventative measures when working with the GMAW process by following the procedures outlined in this article.
Many welding and/or cutting processes produce fumes and gases that could be harmful to your health. Practicing safety standards is key to creating a safe and efficient work environment for yourself and others.
Understand Your Equipment
Make yourself familiar with the torch, settings, buttons, programming, etc. of your equipment. Know which types of metals are commonly welded to make sure you are using the correct consumables for your unit to get the best result.
“It is a good practice to perform routine maintenance and inspect all your welding equipment before you start work,” said David Detmer, national sales manager, ABICOR BINZEL.
Having an understanding of your equipment prevents hazardous situations that could arise when the user lacks knowledge about the product. Be sure the unit is grounded and properly installed.
Test Unit Safety
Physically test the safety of the unit. Review all testing reports and perform a test if necessary.
“It’s your safest bet to check your equipment first before you can even start welding,” stated Phil Montez, district sales manager, ABICOR BINZEL. “There are times where people don’t realize somebody has a slit in their cable or they’re putting electrical tape around a copper cable and it’s not good,”
Checking the inventory of the products being used to ensure there is enough on hand for the entire project saves time and makes the project more efficient. For your equipment, talk to your original equipment manufacturer or welding supply representative. Ask them to take a fresh look at your shop floor and see if they notice anything that could be done to get more out of your production.
Check the Work Area
Ensure the surface area is clean of any contaminants and free from anything that may ignite or become flammable. Prepare the base material. The basic first step is to clean it so it’s free from rust, oil, and other particles. Some materials or weld joints may need some sort of weld joint preparation. Check your work area for exposed wires, damaged cables, loose consumables, cracked handles, or anything that affects the integrity of the unit or torch.
Safety While Welding
Chemical Safety: Be aware of the chemicals being used and how they can interact with other properties. Learn the hazard symbol and know when and where to dispose of toxic chemicals.
Electrical Safety: According to OSHA (osha.gov/electrical), “contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, path to ground missing or discontinuous, equipment not used in manner prescribed, and improper use of extension and flexible cords” are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries. It is crucial to follow the specific regulations regarding electrical safety. Unplug your unit immediately after welding to prevent electrical hazards.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE): Follow the guidelines provided by AWS Safety and Health Fact Sheet No. 33, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Welding and Cutting (aws.org/library/doclib/fs33-201404.pdf): “Welding and cutting can produce hazards such as sparks, spatter, radiation (infrared, ultraviolet, and blue light), slag, heat, hot metal, fumes and gases, and even electric shock. Since these hazards may cause burns, injury, or death, it is important to wear proper PPE at all times.”
Eye and face protection: Wear a helmet with a filter lens and cover plate that complies with ANSI/ISEA Z87.1, American National Standard For Occupational And Educational Personal Eye And Face Protection Devices. Have safety glasses handy. Several lens shades/colors offer a variety of protection depending on the work being performed. Use ear plugs, and make sure your hair is tied and pulled back and out of the way.
Foot protection: Wear boots that are steel toe or meet the requirements of ASTM F2413, Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective (Safety) Toe Cap Footwear.
Hand protection: Wear hole-free, insulated welding gloves that are in good condition. Do not use electrical tape to repair gloves.
Respiratory protective equipment: A respirator is needed when necessary to prevent chemical overexposures. See OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910. 134, and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). Companies should consider using a fume extraction system to improve welders’ health.
Head and ear protection: Wear a fire-resistant welder’s bump cap underneath the helmet with a filter lens.
Body protection: Wear durable, long pants that cover all potentially exposed areas. Sleeves are necessary to protect your arms and neck from skin burns or radiation. Keep your flame-resistant clothing dry.
Keep a lookout for moving machine equipment or other moving parts. Pay attention to all corners of the shop to avoid collisions. Ask your plant operator where the nearest and most-updated rules and regulations are located to ensure all precautions are being taken into consideration. Safety vests and reflective clothing material are also good to wear when in a manufacturing workplace zone.
Always unplug your welding machine as soon as you are finished welding to prevent electrical hazards. Store your welding equipment in a safe place to prevent picking up potential contaminants. Never hang your welding gun by its trigger as this can weaken the gun and cause damage.
By maintaining set safety standards and regulations, we are ensuring that we are doing our best to keep ourselves and those around us safe. Creating a safe welding environment is crucial to the overall success of a welder’s projects. Just a few small tweaks can lead to huge improvements in comfort, cost reduction, time savings, and productivity.
This article was written by David Detmer (national sales manager), Phil Montez (district sales manager), and Rachel Turner (marketing specialist), all of ABICOR BINZEL USA, Frederick, Md., for the American Welding Society.