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The Woes of Welding - A Guide to Health and Safety

When it comes to welding, safety is of utmost importance and precision is paramount, because one relatively minor mistake could cause a catastrophe.

Welding is an exceptionally high-risk profession because it involves high-voltage electricity and extreme heat. In many situations, this combination would be a recipe for disaster. Not only are welders risking life and limb by working with these more obvious hazardous materials, but there are also invisible risks, such as toxic fumes and dangerous gases.

Welding is one of the most common occupations in the industrial sector. Even with the strictest risk control measures, many unfortunate workplace accidents still occur.

The many worrying woes of welding

Statistics show there are an estimated 4,000 non-fatal welding injuries and over 100 fatal welding accidents each year. Welding and cutting account for nearly 30% of all injuries in the manufacturing industry, making it one of the most hazardous professions.

The most common welding injuries are burns, electrical shocks, and eye injuries. Welders are constantly exposed to hot or sparking flame, slag mist, arc, or harmful flying debris.


Let's examine the potential injuries in the world of welding.

High temperatures can lead to high drama

Welders often work with excessive temperatures, which can lead to health problems.

Welders that work in extreme heat can develop weakness, depression, increased irritability, the inability to concentrate, and anxiety. In the most severe cases, physical changes such as cramps (pain and spasms in the muscles of the abdomen and extremities), dehydration and rash (purple blisters on the affected skin areas) can occur.

The very real blight of blindness

Welding can cause blindness and damage to hearing. Welders should always wear the appropriate safety gear, including goggles and earplugs. The welding spark generates an intense light that could damage your retina when looked at without the protection of a welding shield. You may get welder's flash, a temporary blindness that disappears after some time. However, prolonged exposure to the welding spark can cause permanent blindness.

Hazardous and hairy environments

Welders often have to work in dangerous locations, such as near traffic or on bridges.

Their work frequently involves climbing on large structures and using equipment to weld, bend and cut heavy metal. One of the most common fatal occupational accidents in structural ironwork is falls

Welders also work in the oil fields to assist in installing and maintaining derricks and equipment used to extract gas and oil and mine for materials. Working in these harsh situations with heavy gear can make it a mentally and physically exhausting job. Some welders work in confined spaces, such as pits, pipes, or tanks.

Fumes and gases

Welding smoke contains potentially harmful complex metal oxide compounds such as nitrogen oxide, hydrogen fluoride, and manganese.

Inhaling these fumes is one of the most severe hazards for welders because these substances can cause long-term illness. It’s critical that they protect themselves against welding fumes by wearing the appropriate safety gear. Not all dangerous welding fumes are perceptible until it’s too late.

Burns from sparks and flames

Burns typically result from splashes of molten metal. This can cause blindness if it lands in the eyes. Welders have a high risk of burns due to using substances and objects as well as from the UV radiation which is emitted during the process. This UV radiation can cause erythema or "sunburn" and an increased chance of skin cancer.

Welders have a high risk of burns due to using substances and objects as well as from the UV radiation which is emitted during the process. This UV radiation can cause erythema or "sunburn" and an increased chance of skin cancer.

There is a wide range of specialised welding products and PPE available to ensure your workers are safe at all times. When it comes to protecting your face and eyes, a welding helmet which has infinitely adjustable shade control and complies with BS EN 379, BS EN 175 and DIN standards is ideal. There's also the option of adding an even more effective safety solution in your welding environment with workshop welding curtains, which are designed to shield other staff members from glare and other hazards that may be generated from welding and cutting.

To control the sparks and prevent scorching, anti-fatigue matting with special heat-repellent properties is ideal for withstanding sparks and hot metal fragments.


An electric shock occurs when welders touch two metal objects with a voltage between them, inserting themselves into the electrical circuit. This can lead to serious injury and even death, whether from the shock itself or a possible fall caused by the reaction to the shock.

Even a shock of 50 volts or less can injure or kill an operator.

Physical demands

Welding can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries, and other health issues. Static and dynamic physical loads during welding result in an overload on the body's nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

There is a high risk of developing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMD) or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) in welding, for example, bursitis, tendonitis, ruptured rotator cuff tendons, epicondylitis, and trigger finger.

Although welding is a high-risk job, there are certain safety precautions that you can take to protect yourself from these risks.

Workers can avoid dangers through proper training and by wearing personal protective gear.

Safe welding work practices

You can consult all the official Health and Safety regulations surrounding welding, but it's also worth keeping the following basic guidelines in mind:

  • Wear appropriate PPE like a welding helmet and goggles to protect the eyes and head from sparks, intense light, hot slag and chemical burns. Some examples of PPE that welders should wear are long-sleeved shirts, long trousers with no cuffs, welding helmets or goggles, respirators, ear muffs or plugs, safety boots and gloves such as leather welding gauntlets.
  • Inspect all welding equipment and electrode holders before commencing work
  • Welders should not touch the metal parts of the electrode holder with skin or wet clothing
  • Welding workers should remain in their work area for at least 30 minutes after finishing welding to ensure there are no smouldering fires
  • Welding operators should always wear an approved respirator unless exposure assessments are below applicable exposure limits
  • Always conduct welding in a designated safe location
  • Protect yourself from fire hazards
  • Consider the risks
  • Protect other workers
  • Read warning labels and relevant documents
  • Maintain your equipment
  • Protect yourself from fumes and gases
  • Check for ventilation
  • Enforce safety procedures
  • Keep up to date with the latest training and techniques

To summarise:

Welding is an incredibly physically and mentally demanding occupation. It has many inherent risks and the potential for dangerous workplace accidents and incidents. However, if you take the appropriate health and safety measures, there's no reason why it shouldn’t be a stimulating and rewarding career with opportunities to make immense contributions to the profession.

Photograph of Debs

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