How to Prevent Hazards During Structural Steel Welding

April 04, 2019 | 0 comments

A construction site involves the use of large tools and pieces of machinery, working at heights, and dealing with hazardous materials. Because of the nature of the work, these sites can be dangerous for labourers working on the site. Following the construction guidelines of health and safety for ironworkers by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), employers should make sure to prevent any hazards on the structural steel construction site. So, here are some of the precautions to prevent any hazards during any welding process in structural steel construction.

Exposure to Fumes and Gas

Every structural steel welding emits a different combination of gases. Welding fumes and gases pose a serious threat to anyone on the site who inhale them. Overexposure to welding fumes and gases can cause severe health problems like

  • Cancer,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Stomach cramps,
  • Anemia,
  • Joint and muscle aches,
  • Impaired speech and movement,
  • And respiratory illnesses.

Welding fume contains harmful complex metal oxide from consumables, base metals, and the base-metal coatings. The risk to the health of your welder is worse when there is lead-based paint on the metal based on the metal used for welding that can easily lead to lead poisoning.

Safety Precautions

  • Provide adequate ventilation and local exhaust to control the exposure to substances in the fumes depending upon the metals used to weld.
  • Educate your welders about the Occupational Exposure Limits(OELs) and comply with these for safety.
  • Remove the coating on any metal to at least four inches from the area when the heat has to be applied before welding.
  • Post some warning signs to mark the boundaries in lead-contaminated areas.
  • Use the PPE for employees and use protective clothing.
  • Monitor the medical condition of the welder to monitor the amount of exposed lead in their blood.

Fire and Explosion

Dealing with flammable materials present on the site is one of the causes of fire outbreak. Welding arc creates extreme temperatures, posing a risk of potential fire and explosion hazard. Welding can cause temperatures to go up to 5540°C. Therefore, the danger is not only related to the arc that it produces but also with the intense heat, sparks, and spatter created by the arc. Any of the flashes, spatter, or heat that reaches any flammable objects on site can easily create fire and explosion, thus risking the lives of the people on site. Welders are also at risk of arc flash (a burn caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation that stems from electric welding arcs).

Safety Precautions

  • Hire a fire watcher when flammable materials are near or within the 35 feet from the welding area.
  • If you can’t move the materials, you can cover these materials with fire-resistant materials to protect them from the heat and the spark.
  • Suggest the workers to wear protective clothing without any grease or oil on them.
  • Keep the welding area clutter-free and a fire extinguisher in proximity in case of a fire.

Electric Shock

Electric shock is one of the major risks that welders are exposed to while welding. It can lead to severe injury or death from the shock itself or from the fall created by the shock. 50 volts or less is enough to injure or kill a person depending on the surrounding conditions. Arc welding involves open circuit voltages from 20 volts to 100 volts. The voltage inside welding equipment is from 120 volts to 575 volts or even more. A secondary voltage electric shock is a common shock that occurs when the welder touches a part of the welding or electrode circuit.

Safety Precautions

  • Prevent the welders from using wet gloves even if they are in good condition while welding.
  • Educate the welders to not touch the electrode or metal parts of the electrode holder with bare skin or damp clothing.
  • Keep dry insulation between their body and the metal that is being welded or ground.
  • Inspect the electrode holder insulation to ensure that it is in good condition.
  • Always be sure to replace or repair the damage insulation by a qualified repair technician before use.

Physical Hazards

These hazards cause burns, eye damage, cuts, and crushed toes and fingers to welders and labourers that are present when welding the structural steel. Using the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) prevents the welding operator from getting injuries such as burns or exposure to arc rays. Using the right PPE gives the welder the freedom of movement while welding, thus improving the productivity of the welder by providing adequate protection. Insufficient PPE can cause a lot of physical injuries.

Safety Precautions

  • Avoid rolling up the sleeves or pant cuffs. Let your workers know the same.
  • Keep your pants over the top of the work boots and avoid tucking them in.
  • Always wear safety glasses with side shields or goggles to prevent the spark from getting in the eyes.
  • Use leather boots with 6-8 inches coverage for better foot protection. Use heavy flame-resistant gloves to protect from burns, cuts, and scratches.
  • Wear helmets with a side shield and the right shade lens during the process.
  • Choose ear plugs or muffs to protect the ears.

Welders should be aware of the safety precautions before they do any welding related activities. You can keep safety and health programs for the welders to understand the precautions to be taken and the consequences of not doing so. Make sure that the welders take the safety measures seriously to avoid any hazards on the structural steel construction site causing harm to the people on site and around the welding site. Provide a material safety data sheet and follow appropriate practices at the workplace so that operators can stay safe and keep the next structural steel project moving on without losing time to the accidents.

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