Welding is a tiresome job, and it can be dangerous in some cases. If you are new to welding, you might be thinking about what the dangers of using a welding machine are. In this article, I will discuss 5 ways a TIG welder can kill or hurt you.
A TIG Welder can kill or hurt you in many ways. Common dangers include fire, electric shocks, exposing yourself to harmful gases, water, etc. Not all of the dangers are avoidable but you are able to keep safe from most of them if you are careful enough.
Welding requires safety practices, and it is better to be careful during a welding job. If you read the whole article, you will be able to know how TIG welding can be dangerous for you and what steps you can take to protect yourself from those dangers.
Dangers of TIG Welding
TIG welding is risky, and the dangers it comes with are very real. In this section, I will discuss the most common ways you can harm yourself by TIG welding. Let’s start.
1. Danger from Gas Cylinders
Gas cylinders used for TIG welding can be very dangerous in a few cases. If the valve of your gas cylinder comes off, it can cause an immediate fire hazard. In case you get lucky, the cylinder will still cause damage to your welding room.
Try to use a protective cap for the valve of your gas cylinder and follow the safety guidelines provided by the gas cylinder manufacturer. Working with gas is never safe, so take as many safety precautions as you can.
2. Toxic fumes
Welding exposes you to toxic fumes and gases a lot. If you use a gas cylinder to weld and you inhale that gas accidentally, it can be harmful to your health. Sometimes welding creates harmful gases while doing its work. For example, if you are welding steel, it creates Hexavalent Chromium fumes.
When you are doing some metal welding, ozone is definitely going to be created from the process. Inhaling ozone can cause throat irritation, chest pain, coughing, and even suffocation. If you have asthma or respiratory diseases like that, welding can eventually kill you using its toxicity. Long-term exposure to these fumes can cause death too, but I will discuss that later.
In order to reduce the severity of the harmful effects, you can increase the ventilation system wherever you work. You should never work in a tight space, or your chances of suffocation will increase. I have seen welders working in the open air so that the toxic fumes cannot hurt them.
3. Water electrocution
If you are working in a moisturized area, the electricity used for welding can come in contact with water. Even the smallest amount of water is able to electrocute and kill you. Try to keep your welding area as dry as possible. Welders are exposed to electricity a lot, so water must be avoided in order to keep yourself safe.
4. Electric Shock
If you are used to welding, you know how many times you got an electric shock. It’s not uncommon for a welder to face electric shocks multiple times a day. While a lot of welders ignore that, electricity can seriously hurt and kill them. Even a small amount of electricity can form severe mental trauma.
I personally work with a lot of voltages, and I try to make sure that high-power electricity could cause no harm to me. I wear dry gloves and wear plastic sandals. Electric shock can be the most serious issue of welding. So it’s important to keep distance from open electricity.
5. Explosion or Fire
It is known by everyone that welding needs a lot of temperatures. When you are working with ten thousand degrees of Fahrenheit, you know the area is prone to fire. The welding arc is safely kept inside, so the temperature of that arc is not going to hurt you.
The problem is the spark and the spatter produced by the welder. Those can create an explosion or fire if it gets in contact with something vulnerable to temperature. Try to keep gasoline, paint, wood, oil, etc. away from your TIG welder.
Protecting Yourself While TIG Welding
Now that you know how a TIG welder can hurt you, you might be interested in the ways you can protect yourself. So now, I will explain how you can protect yourself while TIG welding.
If your welding components are in imperfect condition, you are prone to dangers from TIG welding. Think of a condition when the wires of your welding machines are damaged. It will surely electrocute you out of nowhere.
Another example could be an unprotected welding machine. If the cover of your machine is not doing its job, you can’t expect it to protect you from the flames and sparks. Your welding components wear out over time. So you must repair those or buy new ones in order to avoid dangerous situations.
You must have grounding clamps to work with TIG welders. Electricity is dangerous, and a grounded clamp can redirect the electricity to the ground so that it can’t hurt you. Try to buy an earth clamp (Yes, that’s just another name of the ground clamp) that has quality wires. I have seen low-quality earth clamps providing less protection than intended.
Safety mats will provide you protection from electricity as well. If you use a safety mat to stand on, you won’t get hurt from an electric shock easily. Some safety mats are able to protect you from extremely hot materials too. Buy a rubber safety mat and place it in your welding room for maximizing protection.
Protective Gears You Should Wear During TIG Welding
You can use a number of protective gears for TIG welding. These gears will minimize the risk of using a TIG welder.
If you want to save your face from the spark created by the welder, use a welding helmet. A welding helmet is such a protection that every welder must use at their workplace. The radiation emitted by your welding arc can damage your skin. Also, the light produced from the radiation is harmful to your eyes.
A helmet is sure to protect you from those risks. I suggest buying a helmet that has the auto-darkening feature. If your helmet has an auto-darkening feature, you won’t have to flip that up and down between your welding sessions. Those helmets will eventually increase your productivity and you won’t face neck pain, unlike the regular helmets.
Other Face Protections
As a regular welder, I know that it is not always possible to wear helmets. When I can’t use a helmet, I use some alternatives to keep my face and eyes protected. Mostly I use a welding mask that protects both my skin and my eyes. It can be a perfect alternative to helmets and can be used for long-time sessions.
You can also use handheld face shields and goggles instead of the welding mask. Although those will save you some bucks, they are a bit inconvenient to use. The handheld face shield requires you to hold it while working. The goggles do not provide much protection and leave your skin open to sparks. For a professional welder, I won’t recommend using those.
Even after you wear a helmet, I definitely recommend wearing a pair of safety glasses under your helmet. The eyes are one of the delicate parts of the human body. No compromises should be made for eye protection. Try to find one that you feel comfortable wearing and that provides full safety from welding machines.
Welding gloves are another important safety protection material for regular welders. Your hands are more prone to damage than other body parts because they work closer to the welding arc. Excessive heat and radiation can easily harm the skin of your hands if you don’t wear gloves.
As your target is TIG welding, you must get TIG welding gloves for your work. Generally, TIG welding gloves are made of heat-resistant soft leather that provides extra dexterity. When you buy a pair of TIG welding gloves, make sure that those gloves are flexible. Flexible gloves are comfortable to wear and often more durable than other gloves.
Jackets are effective for your body protection during welding. If you buy a jacket that is made from flame-resistant material, it will surely protect your body from your TIG welder. While buying something wearable, it is important to consider comfortability.
If you are not into heavy welding, you can buy a cotton jacket with flame-resistant clothes. These jackets are more comfortable and you will be able to easily wash them. But if you want to do some heavy welding, I would prefer to buy a leather jacket.
Although leather jackets provide excellent protection compared to cotton jackets, it can be really uncomfortable to wear them during heavy welding. Leather jackets are something people wear in the winter for keeping themselves warm. Leather jackets are long-lasting and provide the best protection you can find from a jacket.
Sleeves and Aprons
Before wearing a jacket, you can wear an apron for additional protection. If you are doing light welding and don’t want to buy a jacket, you can go for a flame-resistant shirt. That will make sure that you have the maximum protection from flames. Don’t forget to wear leather sleeves with that shirt. After all, you don’t want to miss protection for saving a few bucks.
I have told you before that welding operations generate a lot of toxic fumes. In order to protect yourself from that, you can buy a respirator. Wearing a quality respirator under your helmet will restrict the toxic fumes from entering your lungs. Also, there could be some tiny particles evaporating from the metal you are welding. A respirator helps with that too.
A welding hat is more of a fancy item than a protective component. No, it does provide protection but I would not recommend it for you unless you are a full-time professional welder. Buy one that fits with your helmet and doesn’t irritate you while wearing it. It protects the ears from the sparks and your eyes from your own sweat.
Unlike welding hats, boots are almost mandatory for welding jobs. A good pair of boots that comply with the safety standards will protect your feet. Professional or not, I will recommend you buy a pair of boots if you are a welder. Leather boots should handle your job just fine, but make sure they are made for safety in welding jobs.
Long Term Health Issues of TIG Welding
I have already talked about short-term or immediate problems you can face during TIG welding. But you will be surprised to know that there can be some long-term problems too. Long-term problems are more complicated than short-term problems. In this section, I will talk about those long-term problems.
First of all, you know that the fumes can cause immediate suffocation or other breathing issues if you have a respiratory disease like asthma. But it can also be harmful to healthy people. If someone continues inhaling the fumes and smoke for a long time, it can be as harmful as smoking a cigarette. You may end up with cancer if you don’t use a respirator.
Gradually, your immune system will weaken after taking welding fumes. Even if you consider yourself as a “tough guy”, long-term exposure to a welding environment can eventually drag you to death.
If you weld galvanized steel and do not wear a respirator, you will develop a disease named metal fume fever. The galvanized steel contains a zinc coating which is very toxic. Trust me, wearing a respirator is important.
Welding generates a lot of noise during operation. This sound may seem OK during short-term usage. But if you are a regular welder, that noise will gradually turn into deaf. Long-term hearing damage is not something you can cure in a few days. Wearing earplugs can be a solution to the noise.
Regular welders are vulnerable to catastrophic damages because they work with large metal beams. If those beams are not handled properly, they can fall on a welder causing serious accidents or death. Welders often need to work on tall buildings. If you can’t maintain the safety precautions during your work, try to find another job.
Always try to weld in good weather. Rainy weather can soak your metal components and that can be dangerous. You don’t want to be electrocuted during your welding job, so ask your boss to take the day off. While welding, safety should be your first priority.
Underwater Welding Is Even More Dangerous
Underwater welding can be more dangerous than regular welding. There are a lot of ways underwater welding can kill you. I know that underwater welding jobs offer attractive salaries and a lot of people want the money, but your life is more important.
Both you and your employer should be well trained in underwater welding. Ask your boss not to pull yourself too early from the bottom of the sea. The bones of your body can be seriously damaged from that.
Another issue is electric shock. In underwater, the chances of being electrocuted are more than normal. Make sure the components you use are made especially for underwater welding. Your suit and all of the components should be waterproof.
You may face hypothermia if you work for a long time underwater. Remember, water is cold, and if you stay underwater for a long time, the water will conduct heat away from your body. Wearing an insulated rubber suit is recommended for welding underwater.
No matter if you are a professional welder or not, you might get drowned without any specific reasons. Water pressure changes every second, and even an experienced welder with the proper equipment can get drowned anytime. Welding underwater is risky indeed.
Oxygen failures and injuries can happen underwater if you are not cautious enough. You need to get out of the water slowly because the pressure on the air is not the same as underwater pressure. Most of the pressure-related injuries can be avoided if you are careful.
Gas pockets can form underwater at any time, and they are dangerous. In some cases, gas pockets can explode and kill you underwater. Exposure to those gas pockets even without explosion can be dangerous. Every year 6 to 13 people die during welding underwater. If you can’t but weld underwater, take all of the safety precautions before diving in.
Now, you probably have a good idea of the ways a TIG welder can kill or hurt you. Like all machines and power tools, it’s no surprise that even welders can be harmful to you. But with the proper precautions and protective gear you can easily protect yourself.
Thanks for reading and I hope you will stay careful while TIG welding in your projects.
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