Last Updated on Nov 19, 2022
Welding accidents and injuries are quite common all over the world. Each year, there are an estimated 4,000 non-fatal welding injuries and over 100 fatal welding accidents. The most common welding injuries are burns, eye injuries, and electrical shocks. A welder is usually exposed to hot or sparking flame, arc, slag mist, or flying debris. The injuries are caused by the melting of the weld pool, which might have serious implications.
Welding accidents account for around a quarter of all fatal workplace injuries. A one-third of all the non-fatal amputations are also included in this category. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 21 welding accidents for every 100,000 workers in the US. Roughly 1,000 workers are injured while welding per 100 million hours worked. That’s 100x more than the national average for all other workers.
Even though welding is a relatively safe activity, several risks are still involved. According to the US BLS, over 560,000 workers are injured in welding accidents annually. It’s because welding generates a lot of heat. Here are some of the most common welding accidents and injuries:
Welding involves working with extremely high temperatures, which can easily lead to burns. In fact, burns are the most common type of welding injury. Two types of burns can occur while welding: thermal and electrical.
Thermal burns are caused by exposure to high temperatures. When welding, the temperatures can reach up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to cause serious burns. Two types of thermal burns can occur while welding: first-degree and second-degree.
A first-degree burn is a minor type of burn. It only affects the first layer of skin, known as the epidermis. First-degree burns are usually not very painful and will heal within a few days.
A second-degree burn is more serious than a first-degree burn. It affects the second layer of skin, known as the dermis. Second-degree burns are usually quite painful and will take several weeks to heal.
Electrical burns are caused by exposure to electricity. Welding involves working with high-voltage electricity, which can easily lead to electrical burns. Electrical burns can be very serious and even fatal in some cases.
Eye injuries are another common type of welding injury. Welding produces a lot of bright light, which can easily damage the eyes. Welding creates a lot of dust. Before you realize it, dust sneaks into your eyes and stays there, bothering you. Accidents can be avoided with the use of eyeglass lenses and filter screens.
When you are close to a hot, blazing metal surface while welding, your eyes are the most vulnerable part of your body, welding torches give up a lot of light, and their intensity might affect your vision. The intense heat makes it difficult to see, and the pupils may dilate or contract. Welding torches reflect practically entire light rays into the eyes because of the hot metal surface. Two types of eye injuries can occur while welding: arc flash burns and welder’s flash.
Eye injuries are more common, with a total of 47.9%. The injuries by electric/arc welding (73.7%) have higher chances than gas welding (9.7%).
Arc Flash Burns
An arc flash is an electrical burn that can occur while welding. An arc flash is caused by an electric arc that comes into contact with the body. Arc flash burns can range in severity from minor, superficial burns to severe third-degree burns. The epidermis and underlying tissue are majorly affected by a flash burn. Third-degree burns are quite painful. The reason for this is that the heat from the arc damages not only the underlying tissues but also the muscles and nerves. As per OSHA, 2,500 to 3,000 serious arc flash burns occur yearly.
Welder’s flash, also known as photographer’s flash, is a type of eye injury that can occur while welding. A welder’s flash is caused by exposure to the bright light generated by the welding process. A welder’s flash can cause temporary blindness and is usually quite painful.
Another common welding injury type is a spark, also known as a spatter. A welding spark is caused by exposure to the hot sparks produced by the welding process. If molten metal particles are thrown into the air and come into contact with a flammable surface, they can trigger a welding mishap. Welding sparks are the most prevalent trigger of welding fires and explosions. Moreover, it can cause serious burns and eye injuries.
Electrical shocks are another common type of welding injury. Welding involves working with high-voltage electricity, which can easily lead to electrical shocks. Electrical shocks can range in severity from mild to fatal. The most severe electrical shocks can cause heart failure, respiratory arrest, and even death.
Fumes and Gases
Welding also produces a lot of fumes and gases. These fumes and gases can be harmful to the lungs if inhaled. Inhaling welding fumes can lead to several health problems, including metal fume fever, pneumonitis, and cancer.
Metal Fume Fever
Metal fume fever is a flu-like illness that can occur after inhaling welding fumes. Symptoms of metal fume fever include fever, chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Metal fume fever usually goes away on its own within a few days.
Pneumonitis is a lung inflammation that can occur after inhaling welding fumes. Symptoms of pneumonitis include coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Pneumonitis can be a serious condition and may require hospitalization.
Exposure to welding fumes can also lead to cancer. Welding fumes contain several carcinogens, including arsenic, chromium, and nickel. These carcinogens can increase the risk of lung cancer, bladder cancer, and kidney cancer.
Fires and Explosions
Fires and explosions are other potential hazards of welding. Welding involves working with high-voltage electricity, which can easily lead to fires and explosions. According to the BLS, fires or explosions cause around 40% of machine or equipment-related injuries.
When combustible vapours, liquids or gases are ignited by an electric spark, arc, or flame, fires and explosions can result. In enclosed spaces, such incidents of fire and explosion are more dangerous. Inside cutting and welding equipment, flammable fumes, vapours, or liquids can mix and spark oxygen from the air. It has the potential to create a potentially explosive combo.
Welding can also be quite loud, which can lead to hearing loss. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), welding noise can reach up to 140 decibels. Exposure to noise at this level can cause permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a common welding injury. In fact, it is the most common type of injury reported by welders, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to the loud noise generated by the welding process. Hearing loss is a serious condition that can lead to disability.
What Welding Type Has the Most Accidents?
The most common welding process linked to the highest number of accidents is oxy-fuel gas welding. This type of welding uses a gas flame to weld metals together, and the gas can easily catch fire, leading to serious accidents. Other processes with a high number of accidents include arc welding and spot welding.
Another riskiest welding type is stick welding, which is a type of arc welding. Stick welding uses an electric current to create an arc between the metal and the electrode. This arc can easily cause burns and electrical shocks. The accident rate of stick welding is 3x more than other welding types.
Stick welding involves more variables and must be controlled precisely to avoid accidents. The most common cause of stick welding accidents is human error. Poor technique, incorrect electrode selection, and not following safety procedures are the most common causes of stick welding accidents. The machinery is complex, so the possibility of an error is huge. There are two types of electrodes used in stick welding, consumable and non-consumable. The consumable electrode is made of materials that can be easily consumed during the welding process. In contrast, the non-consumable electrode is made of materials that do not get consumed during the welding process.
The most common type of welding electrode is the consumable electrode. This type of electrode is made of materials that can be easily consumed during welding. The most common consumable electrode is the carbon electrode. The carbon electrode is made of a graphite rod covered with a thin layer of copper. The copper helps conduct the electric current, and the graphite helps create the arc.
MIG welding is a stick welding type that uses a wire electrode fed through a welding gun. The wire electrode is made of materials that can be easily consumed during the welding process. MIG welding is a type of welding that deposits metal swiftly and precisely where it is needed with a lot of heat.
TIG welding is a type of stick welding that uses a tungsten electrode. The tungsten electrode is a non-consumable electrode that does not get consumed during the welding process. TIG welding is a type of welding that is more accurate and deposits the metal more slowly using less heat but cannot deposit the metal where it’s being used.
Best Welding Type
There are many types of welding, and each has its own risks and dangers. The best is Flux-Cored Arc Welding, as it is the least likely to cause accidents. It uses regulated heat levels to deposit metal precisely where it’s needed. It’s the closest thing you can get to the ideal welding machine.
How to Reduce The Risk Of Welding Injuries and Accidents?
There are several common welding injuries and accidents that can occur. These include electrical shocks, metal fume fever, pneumonitis, cancer, fires and explosions, hearing loss, and more. Welding is dangerous, and it is important to be aware of the risks before starting any welding project.
There are several safety precautions that welders can take to prevent injuries. These precautions include wearing the proper safety gear, using the proper techniques, and following all safety guidelines. Let’s see some pointers:
- Wear proper safety gear, including a welding helmet, gloves, and protective clothing.
- Use the proper welding techniques.
- Follow all safety guidelines.
- Keep your work area clean and free of clutter.
- Inspect your equipment regularly.
- Never work alone.
- Use caution when working with high-voltage electricity.
If you follow these safety precautions, you can help prevent welding accidents and injuries.