Arc Welding & Fire Safety

Arc welding is a safe occupation when sufficient measures are taken to protect the welder from potential hazards. When these measures are overlooked or ignored, however, welders can encounter such dangers as electric shock, overexposure to fumes and gases, arc radiation, and fire and explosion; which may result in serious, or even fatal injuries.  The welding arc creates extreme temperatures and may pose a significant fire and explosions hazard if safe practices are not followed. While the welding arc may reach temperatures of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the real danger is not from the arc itself, but rather the heat, sparks and spatter created by the arc. This spatter can reach up to 35 feet away from the welding space.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Protective Clothing

Welders, like firemen, must wear clothing to protect them from being burned. Of all injuries to welders, burns are the most common due to sparks landing on bare skin. Welding arcs are very intense and can cause burns to skin and eyes with just a few minutes of exposure.

ARC RAYS CAN BURN

Arc Welding & Fire Safety

  • Headshield and filter lens should conform to ANSI Z87. I standards
  • Use a shield with the proper filter and cover plates to protect your eyes from sparks and the rays of the arc when welding or observing open arc welding.
  • Use suitable clothing made from durable flame-resistant material to protect your skin and that of your helpers from the arc rays.
  • Protect other nearby personnel with suitable, non-flammable screening and/or warn them not to watch the arc nor expose themselves to the arc rays or to hot spatter or metal.

WELDING AND CUTTING SPARKS CAN CAUSE FIRE OR EXPLOSIONArc Welding & Fire Safety

  • Remove fire hazards from the welding area.
  • If this is not possible, cover them to prevent the welding sparks from starting a fire. Remember that welding sparks and hot materials from welding can easily go through small cracks and openings to adjacent areas. Avoid welding near hydraulic lines. Have a fire extinguisher readily available.
  • Where compressed gases are to be used at the job site, special precautions should be used to prevent hazardous situations. Refer to “Safety in Welding and Cutting” (ANSI Standard Z49.1) and the operating information for the equipment being used.
  • When not welding, make certain no part of the electrode circuit is touching the work or ground. Accidental contact can cause overheating and create a fire hazard.
  • Do not heat, cut or weld tanks, drums or containers until the proper steps have been taken to ensure that such procedures will not cause flammable or toxic vapors from substances inside. They can cause an explosion even though they have been “cleaned”.
  • Vent hollow castings or containers before heating, cutting or welding. They may explode.
  • Sparks and spatter are thrown from the welding arc. Wear oil free protective garments such as leather gloves, heavy shirt, cuff less trousers, high shoes and a cap over your hair. Wear ear plugs when welding out of position or in confined places. Always wear safety glasses with side shields when in a welding area.
  • Connect the work cable to the work as close to the welding area as practical. Work cables connected to the building framework or other locations away from the welding area increase the possibility of the welding current passing through lifting chains, crane cables or other alternate circuits. This can create fire hazards or overheat lifting chains or cables until they fail.

REMEMBER THIS:

  • Inspect the arc welder before starting any operation.
  • Read all warning labels and instruction manuals for the welder.
  • Insulate your body from the metal you are welding.
  • Wear dry gloves in good condition and other appropriate clothing (long sleeves, pants and footwear) to protect you from hot sparks, molten metal, and slag. Don’t strike an arc without proper eye protection.
  • Ground the welder case.
  • Avoid fire hazards such as oil, grease, and flammables.
  • Remove all fire hazards from the welding area for at least 35 feet.
  • Have the proper class of fire extinguisher (employer provided) ready for immediate use. For most welding, a combination extinguisher (Class A, B, C) is best.
  • For magnesium fires, it is best to use a Class D fire extinguisher or to cover the fire with sand or magnesium foundry flux.

Remember the three “F’s” of welding:
FIRE, FUMES, AND FACE (including eyes)
Look out for these three, and you’ll be able to weld safely.