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Safe Welding & Cutting Operations

Welding and cutting operations can pose significant hazards.  The hazards of welding are summed up in three key areas: fires, fumes and your face.

The Fastest Fire

Protect the person and the work area from fire that may be caused by sparks or molten metal drips.

What is the safest way to perform welding and cutting operations?   Work far away from anything that can burn.   Since this is not always possible, take time to clean up and prepare the area beforehand.

Clean away combustible materials within 30 feet of your welding or cutting job, sweep the floor clean of dust and debris, and protect open doorways and windows with a fireproof curtain.

If it is impossible to remove everything that can burn, take these precautions:

  • Cover wooden beams, partitions, floors and scaffolds with sheet metal or fireproof blankets, or wet down combustible floors.  But remember, you can create a shock hazard if you use electric welding equipment.
  • Put containers of water or sand below dripping slag or where pieces of hot metal might fall.
  • Keep water, sand or a fire extinguisher on hand to put out fires caused by sparks. In extremely hazardous situations, have someone stand by with a fire extinguisher while the work is being done.  In most situations, an employee would be assigned to stand by with a fire extinguisher for 30 minutes after welding or cutting operations have been completed.

Do you sometimes weld tanks or drums that once held flammable liquids or gas? For your safety, insist on an approved test that shows there are not dangerous vapors left in the tank.  Do not weld or cut on a sealed drum either, because pressure from heated air could build inside.

Finally, never weld near areas where heavy dust particles appear or where flammables were recently used.    If in doubt, use a combustible-gas indicator to check for flammable vapors.

Fumes in the Room

Because welding may produce toxic fumes, good ventilation is just as important to your safety as preventing fires. Those fumes are bad for your health.  If you place screens around the area to prevent fire and interfere with ventilation, you may need to use special ventilating equipment or wear a respirator.  Never weld in a confined space without making sure that there is enough ventilation and that a "safe" atmosphere exists.  Follow your county shop procedures before you go into these areas.

Face Up to the Facts

Always protect your face and eyes from sparks, slag, molten metal and flash burns caused by radiation from welding equipment. OSHA requires gas welders to wear impact-and heat-resistant goggles.  In addition, arc welders are required to wear helmets and goggles that resist heat, fire, impact and electricity. Be sure that all employees know what kind of personal protective equipment is required for each welding job.

For safety's sake, before you start any welding operation, make sure you protect yourself.

Provided by the National Safety Council