Welding Safety & Welding Hazards

Learn about the importance of welding safety, 4 most common welding hazards and risks, and welding safety precautions and tips for welders.

Published 19 Oct 2021

Why is Welding Safety Important?

Welding is a hazardous workplace activity which exposes over half a million workers to health and safety risks each year in the United States alone. Welding safety measures are designed to protect employees from welding hazards. Welding safety can be implemented by conducting proper training, inspecting welding equipment, and ensuring workers are aware of safety precautions before performing welding activities to minimize the risk of health and safety injuries.

10 Welding Safety Rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlined specific requirements for welding, cutting, and brazing in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Q. While their implementation may be dependent on the context of the company, consider starting to apply these 10 general welding safety rules in daily business operations:

  1. If the object to be welded or cut cannot readily be moved, all movable fire hazards in the vicinity shall be taken to a safe place.
  2. If all the fire hazards cannot be removed, then guards shall be used to confine the heat, sparks, and slag, and to protect the immovable fire hazards.
  3. If fire hazards cannot be moved and if guards cannot be used, then welding and cutting shall not be performed.
  4. A welder or helper working on platforms, scaffolds, or runways shall be protected against falling by the use of railings, safety belts, life lines, or some other equally effective safeguards.
  5. Welders shall place welding cable and other equipment so that it is clear of passageways, ladders, and stairways.
  6. Workers exposed to the hazards created by welding, cutting, or brazing operations shall be protected by personal protective equipment.
  7. When welding must be performed in a space entirely screened on all sides, the screens shall be so arranged that no serious restriction of ventilation exists.
  8. Local exhaust or general ventilating systems shall be provided and arranged to keep the amount of toxic fumes, gases, or dusts below the maximum allowable concentration.
  9. After welding operations are completed, the welder shall mark the hot metal or provide some other means of warning other workers.
  10. Ensure that each welder has access to labels on containers of such materials and safety data sheets, and is trained.

General Safe Work Practices for Welders

Safety work practices in welding depend on the complexity of the specific task and conditions of the job site, among other factors. Generally, basic welding safety guidelines based on industry standards should be practiced by welders, and these include the following:

  • Welding operators should always wear an approved respirator unless exposure assessments are below applicable exposure limits.
  • Inspecting welding equipment and electrode holder before proceeding to work.
  • Welders should not touch the metal parts of the electrode holder with skin or wet clothing.
  • Wearing appropriate PPE like welding helmet and goggles to protect workers’ eyes and head from hot slag, sparks, intense light, and chemical burns.
  • Welding workers should remain in the work area for at least 30 minutes after finishing welding to ensure there are no smoldering fires.

Welding Hazards and Safety Risks

Welding safety involves identifying hazards before proceeding with job tasks in order to remove them, reduce safety risks, and maintain a safe work environment. The 4 most common health and safety hazards of welding include:

  • Exposure to Fumes and Gases

    Overexposure to welding fumes and gases can cause severe health problems like respiratory illnesses, cancer, and impaired speech and movement. Exposure to fumes and gases can be controlled by adhering to these safety precautions.

  • Physical Hazards

    Physical hazards that can cause burns, eye damage, cuts, and crushed toes and fingers are ever-present when welding. With the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety measures, you can protect your workers against physical hazards.

  • Electric Shock

    Electrocution is the most immediate and serious risk for a welder. The sudden discharge of electricity to the human body can cause serious injury and even death. Electrocution risk from welding can be minimized through these basic precautions.

  • Fire and Explosion

    Flammable materials around the working area are the number one cause of a fire. This can be prevented by maintaining a clean working area before proceeding to weld and these other safety controls. It is also important to know the location of fire alarms, emergency exits, and fire extinguishers in the event of a fire.

welding safety checklist

Precautions and Tips

Safety precautions in welding are action steps welders can do to prevent welding-related incidents or injuries such as burns, eye injuries, and other skin injuries and even deaths due to explosions, electrocutions, and asphyxiation. In order to eliminate or reduce the most common welding hazards, welders should practice the following safety precautions and tips accordingly:

  • Provide adequate ventilation and local exhaust to keep fumes and gases from the breathing zone and the general area.
  • Report concerns to a supervisor so your exposure to substances of the welding fumes can be checked.
  • Fire and electricity resistant clothing, hand shields, welding gloves, aprons, and boots can be worn to protect workers from heat, fires, electrocution, and burns. Take note that flame retardant treatments become less effective with repeated laundering. Pant legs must not have cuffs and must cover the tops of the boots. Cuffs can collect sparks.
  • Earmuffs and earplugs can also protect workers against noise.
  • Perform lockout and tag out procedures when performing repairs. Only qualified repair technicians should service or repair welding equipment.
  • Keep a suitable Class ABC fire extinguisher nearby while welding. Make sure the extinguisher gauge is full. If an extinguisher is not available, be sure to have access to fire hoses, sand buckets, or other equipment that houses a fire.
  • If welding within 35 feet of flammable materials, put a piece of sheet metal or fire-resistant blanket over the flammable material and have a fire watcher nearby to keep track of sparks.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Erick Brent Francisco

Erick Brent Francisco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, he is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. His experience in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail helps enrich the quality of information in his articles.

Erick Brent Francisco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, he is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. His experience in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail helps enrich the quality of information in his articles.