Grab Your Eye Gear - It's National Welding Month!
April is National Welding Month! This week, we're giving a shout-out to our construction community with a few welding safety tips from OSHA.
What is welding?
Welding is one of the more difficult aspects of construction. It involves using heat or pressure (or both!) to secure two or more parts together. Typically, welders work on metal or certain types of thermoplastic, but the process can also be done on wood (very carefully!).
It results in some of the most durable construction out there, from car manufacturing to aerospace repairs and everything in between. There are five main types of welding:
- Arc welding is the general term for a group of common welding processes, like MIG (metal inert gas) welding and plasma arc welding, that use the heat from an electric arc to meld materials (usually metals). This procedure creates tough joints between metals like stainless steel, cobalt, and titanium, and you'll find it used most commonly in the automotive, aerospace, power, and oil and gas industries.
- Electron beam welding (or EBW) uses a beam of high-velocity electrons to join materials. This is performed in a vacuum chamber to keep the beam from dissipating into the air, and is usually performed to join ultra-thick sections of metal. You'll see EBW used a lot in the welding industry, but particularly in fields like rail, automotive, and nuclear power.
- Friction welding uses mechanical friction to join materials like steel, aluminum, and wood. By creating friction, the welding tools soften the materials enough to the point where they can be joined together. It's most commonly used in the aerospace industry, since planes and spaceships are often made from light-weight alloys that can't stand up to the intensity of other welding methods.
- Laser welding uses an actual laser (yes, really!) to join thermoplastics and metals. It's a high-speed, easily automated process, so it's used a lot in manufacturing processes as in the automotive industry.
- Resistance welding includes both spot welding and seam welding. Spot welding delivers heat from two electrodes to a small area to create "beads" that hold parts together. Seam welding follows the same process, but uses rotating wheels instead of electrodes to create longer "seams" that can act as leak-free seals. For this reason, resistance welding usually contributes to projects that need to withstand a lot of pressure, like undersea and aerospace operations.
Why is safety important when it comes to welding?
As you can imagine, with so many sparks flying, electrodes firing, and lasers, uh, laser-ing, welding comes with a LOT of safety complications. With the proper protections, injuries are rare, but because the stakes are so high, safety is absolutely critical to maintain.
According to OSHA, some of the most common health hazards associated with welding, cutting, and brazing operations come from exposure to metal fumes and UV radiation, as well as injuries from burns, shocks, and cuts. And of course, eye damage is one of the leading health hazards in the welding industry.
How can I keep myself and my team safe?
We're glad you asked! The best way to stay protected while welding is to wear the proper safety gear. This means gloves, protective coverings, and hair tied back (and ideally covered with a helmet, hat, or other protective gear). And you can't forget your safety eyewear!
One obstacle that isn't immediately obvious is the risk of inhaling dangerous fumes and gases. Due to the nature of the work, many welding tools use "protective" gases to limit the risk of fire or explosion. However, fumes from these gases can be incredibly damaging for the respiratory system. The best way to avoid this is to make sure the work area has top-notch ventilation and exhaust systems, and that every welding operator is wearing a respirator in addition to safety glasses.
OSHA also recommends making the following adjustments to your work area to stay safe:
- Wear protective gear at all times, like respirators, ANSI Z87+ safety glasses, ear plugs or ear muffs, and helmets.
- Inspect all equipment before you get started to minimize the risk of leaks or explosions.
- Never touch the metal parts of an electrode welder with your skin or wet gear.
- Keep a full fire extinguisher on site at all times.
- Remove or cover any nearby flammable materials with sheet metal or a fire-resistant blanket.
- When the work is finished, stick around for at least 30 minutes to guarantee there are no sneaky fires smoldering away.
Most importantly, leave the welding tools to the professionals. If you're like us, you're ridiculously impressed with the whole welding process now and are itching to give it a try. However, welding is one of the most dangerous parts of the construction process, and requires extensive training and education to do it correctly, safely, and efficiently.
Celebrate National Welding Month with us by properly protecting your favorite welder! Head over to our safety gear section to learn more about our safety eyewear, or brush up on your knowledge about ANSI Z87+ certification and the different types of safety lenses. Education and awareness go far to protecting the ultra-talented hard workers of the welding industry!