Welders at Risk: Common Causes of Welding Injuries
Welding is done at high temperatures using electricity and gases, putting welders at risk for a myriad of workplace injuries. This line of work leaves professionals facing daily hazards such as burns, electric shock, optical and acoustic injury, and explosions. Welders who suffer personal harm as a result of workplace safety hazards can speak to a worker’s compensation attorney for help recovering compensation.
Electric shock is one of the most widely recognized causes of injury in the welding industry. This happens when two metal parts with a voltage between them come in contact. Electric shock also occurs when the welder accidentally touches a part of the weld or electrical circuit while welding.
There are four primary types of injuries that occur from electrical shock. These include flame burns, flash burns, lightning injuries, and true electrical injuries. Flame burn injuries occur when electrical explosions burn a person’s clothing, creating deep burns. Flash burns result from an arc flash and are mostly superficial as the damage is limited to the skin’s surface. Lightning injuries occur from bursts of high voltage exposure, leading currents to pass through the body. True electrical injuries make the individual a part of an electric current and typically leave an entrance and exit wound.
Fumes and Gases
Fumes and gases during welding create a respiratory health hazard. Welders are exposed to an atmosphere loaded with poisonous exhaust fumes and gases. Metal oxides, base metals, metal coatings, and minerals like arsenic, lead, and manganese generate many of the hazardous fumes. Argon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen fluoride are harmful gases often produced during welding.
OSHA warns that exposure to these gases can cause eye and throat irritation, nausea, dizziness, and suffocation. Prolonged exposure to these gases can cause cancers of the respiratory tract and kidney damage. These injuries are covered under state workers’ compensation protections.
Noise levels that exceed 85 decibels are a health hazard. The welding process produces noise levels that can exceed this threshold two times over. Flying debris also poses a threat to ear safety for welding professionals. Types of acoustic injuries most likely to be suffered include acute acoustic trauma and chronic acoustic trauma.
Acute acoustic trauma results from a short-lived, single exposure to a high blast of sound. This is a one-time event that may happen on a day a welder works without proper ear protection. The damage done to the ears, in this case, is reversible and may heal without medical intervention. Prolonged exposure to harmful noise levels can lead to chronic acoustic trauma. Chronic acoustic trauma may cause irreversible damage to the ear. It can lead to gradual hearing loss over the period of continuous exposure to the noise.
Flames and Blasts
Due to the high temperatures associated with the welding arc, fires and explosions are a constant risk in this line of work. Welders have to be watchful, especially considering the many gases and flammable synthetic compounds produced during welding.
Common causes for fires and explosion in welding jobs include:
- Welding sparks and the presence of flammable materials or gases
- Electric arc from the welding equipment during the welding process
- Improper use of welding equipment and torches
Fires and explosions in welding sites can injure both workers and other nearby persons. Injuries suffered may result in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree burns, brain injury, amputation, or death.
Flashes and hot molten metal can soak the air and find a way into the welder’s eyes. Additionally, welders have to be alert to the optical risks of infrared and ultra-violate radiation generated from the welding arc. Types of eye injuries most likely to affect welders include scratches to the sclera, acute hyphen, and welder flash eye. Scratch to the sclera is also referred to as a subconjunctival hemorrhage and results from a bruise to the white part of the eyeball that causes the eye to appear red in color. Acute Hyphen occurs when flying sparks in the welding process may land in the eyes and damage the cornea and iris area. Welder flash eye is a burned or damaged cornea caused by the welding arc’s extremely bright light. Welders’ flash eye may lead to irreversible damage.
Harsh Working Conditions
A welder’s workday is long as welders often have to work for extended periods under difficult conditions with their bodies in uncomfortable positions. Loud noises, optical hazards, and harmful fumes create an environment that places workers at continuous risk. Like other workers, welders are entitled to protective equipment and environments that comply with occupational safety requirements. A workers compensation attorney may help welders that have suffered from injuries on the job to obtain restitution for medical expenses and lost wages.