Every guy who's spent a decent amount of time in the garage knows that you don't take shortcuts with two things: the quality of your customization, and your personal safety when getting up and running with welding. The last thing you want is a hot spark or a glob of molten metal to ruin your day and make your wife or girlfriend say, "I told you so." We'll take a quick look at what you need to stay safe and out of the emergency room while welding in the shop or garage.
It's really easy to become a victim of your own laziness during a quick tack weld, or go without proper protection because it's hot in the shop. Did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claims that every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces, and of that, mechanics (experienced and novice alike) share in the majority of risk? For metal fabricators, eye protection is just a start.
Ensure your welder is on a flat surface away from any water or flammable materials, including paper, cloth rags, oil, and gasoline. Avoid working in wet conditions since water conducts electricity.
Verify proper grounding. A metal-on-metal connection is best unimpeded by paint or other foreign material. Never use chains, wire rope, etc., as grounding connectors.
When using gas cylinders, chain them securely to a stationary, upright support or cart at all times. When moving or storing a cylinder, fasten the threaded protector cap to the top of the cylinder. Only use gas hoses designed for welding.
Keep your work area free from clutter. This promotes safety and helps increase efficiency by making necessary equipment and tools easy to find. Cables and hoses can create a trip hazard. Organize the workspace to minimize the number of cables underfoot. Coil up excess hose when finished to prevent kinks and tangles.
There are no good excuses...
There are no good excuses when it comes to not using proper safety gear in the shop. We'll take a look at a few new items that will keep you covered and comfortable.
Find a good pair of high-impact...
Find a good pair of high-impact safety glasses, and get accustomed to putting them on in the shop, especially while grinding and cutting.
Leather gloves are essential...
Leather gloves are essential to a welder. There are a variety on the market now, but beware, some have a "one size fits all" design that will feel clunky, boxy, and uncomfortable. Miller just introduced a new line of form-fitted gloves, jackets, and accessories called Arc Armor. This stuff is designed by welders for welders.
Examine hoses regularly for leaks, wear, and loose connections. A quick spray with a soap and water mixture will create bubbles indicating a leak or loose connection. Immediately replace any faulty gas hoses with new hoses; resist the duct tape (don't do it.)
Even with heavy-duty gloves, picking up a piece of hot metal poses a burn risk. Pick up hot metal with a pair of pliers. Use appropriate tools for chipping and brushing off slag, grinding, sanding, etc.
Welding fumes can be hazardous, so ensure your workspace is properly ventilated. In smaller workshops like a home garage, it's a good idea to leave a door or window open and run a box fan as an exhaust, sucking fumes away from your breathing area.
Although the following sounds obvious, a common fault among guys in the garage is not wearing the right safety equipment while welding. Some of the more credible welding equipment manufacturers have taken a responsible approach by developing their own lines of protective safety gear that meet OSHA regulations and are actually comfortable to wear.
Arc welding produces sparks and spatter and emits intense visible and invisible rays that pose several hazards to unprotected skin and eyes. Shorts, short sleeves, and open collars all leave you vulnerable to burns from both flying sparks and arc rays. Wear only flame-resistant clothing, and button your cuffs and pockets to prevent them from catching sparks. Pants cuffs, too, can catch sparks and should be avoided.
With respect to footwear, high-top leather shoes offer the best protection. Tennis shoes and other cloth shoes are inadequate; they can catch a spark and smolder unnoticed, and their components can melt and stick to your skin.
Always wear proper gloves when welding or handling recently welded material to protect yourself from sparks, arc burns, and heat from the work piece. Mechanic-style gloves are not recommended for welding, as they are not flame resistant. Remember, even a quick tack weld requires a welding helmet and appropriate apparel.
Metalworking gloves like these...
Metalworking gloves like these give the fabricator added dexterity for picking up smaller parts while protecting your hands. These gloves are not recommended for welding because they are not flame-resistant, but they will do an excellent job on smaller things around the shop.
Auto-darkening technology found in modern welding helmets protects the welder from sparks and harmful UV rays with the added benefit of repositioning hands and work material without the need to flip up the helmet. Different models have multiple arc sensors that help when welding out of position. It's also a good idea to keep the cables on your welder coiled up when not in use. This keeps them from being beat up or becoming a trip hazard.
New welding jackets like the...
New welding jackets like the one seen here are now available in a combination of materials from leather to flame-resistant cotton. Pin-flap pockets keep sparks out and allow quick access to contents. When considering a leather welding jacket, look at the quality of leather-some are designed with the smooth grain side of the leather facing outward. This allows sparks to skip or shed off easier than the rough split leather seen in other designs.
Even a brief exposure to the arc's radiation may cause symptoms such as a burning sensation or eye irritation commonly referred to as "arc flash." Repeated exposure can lead to permanent injury. Always wear proper face and eye protection, including safety glasses underneath the welding helmet, when welding or when exposed to a welding arc. Get accustomed to putting safety glasses on each time you enter the shop.
Auto-darkening helmets offer the best solution if your welding needs require different processes-MIG, stick, TIG-materials, or parameters. All auto-darkening helmets must comply with the safety and protection requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Auto-darkening helmets vary greatly in their response times to the light of the arc, generally between 1/2,000 to 1/20,000 of a second. Helmets also differ in the level of lens shade, with some remaining a fixed shade #10 and others adjustable between shade #9 and shade #13. Newer helmets offer convenient features such as auto-on and grind modes.
The nice thing about auto-darkening helmets compared to fixed shade is that you can get set up and maintain the right position without flipping up your helmet. This is also nice while welding in a tight area where flipping a helmet isn't possible.
Making Safe Welds
Just as important to your safety is performing high-quality, structurally sound welds. Failing to fully grind out a crack or using insufficient current could leave you with a weld that appears sound, but in reality could fail under the demanding conditions common on the road.
Like operating the welder safely, strong welds begin with reading the owner's manual. It'll help you select the proper wire or electrode for your metal type and thickness and will provide guidelines for setting the correct current parameters to ensure adequate penetration. Don't have your manual anymore? Welding equipment manufacturers such as Miller Electric Mfg. Co. offer user manuals online for free download.
Once you have the wire/electrode and settings right, be sure to grind away paint, rust, and other surface material from the area to be welded. Stick and flux-cored welding are more forgiving of these types of contaminants than MIG welding, but the metal should be cleaned as much as possible regardless.
Miller's new cloth and combination...
Miller's new cloth and combination jackets offer welders a lightweight garment featuring hidden snaps for the addition of a pigskin leather bib/apron.
This patent-pending design...
This patent-pending design allows for added coverage across the chest and thighs depending on the welding application. Hidden snaps protect materials from scratches and damage. Simply snap the apron off when not needed.
When using gas cylinders,...
When using gas cylinders, chain them securely to a stationary, upright support or cart at all times. Some carts are designed to hold both the welder and cylinder, which makes securing and moving easy.
One of the most overlooked steps in making strong welds is fully grinding out the cracks and holes that form in the equipment. Oftentimes, when a crack forms, the operator will simply get out their welder and start welding over the crack, ignoring the fact that the crack goes all the way through the metal. A "band-aid" approach such as this creates an unsafe situation in which a small amount of weld material is required to bear the same amount of weight and force that caused the crack in a much thicker piece of metal. To avoid this possibly hazardous situation, grind out the crack from both the front and back of the metal to make sure the crack doesn't re-form and continue spreading.
Making multiple passes is another step toward creating sound welds. Operators often go too slowly, mistakenly thinking the extra metal they are depositing will result in stronger welds. Rather, weld at a recommended pace and go back and make multiple passes as necessary.
Your Quick Welding Safety Checklist
Save a trip to the hospital and post this bad boy on or near your welder!
>strong>Around the Shop
Clean, dry workspace away from any flammable liquids or solvents
Secured gas cylinder
Needle-nose / Snips
Open a window or door
Exhaust fan if needed
Welding helmet-auto-darkening or flip-shade with current ANSI certification
Flame-resistant clothing with cuffs and pockets buttoned
Gloves-heavy-duty leathers for welding
Leather shoes-high-tops (steel-toes are a bonus)
Correct wire or electrode for material thickness
Joint prep-grind off any surface material and paint
Repairing cracks-fully grind out cracks and holes on both sides of the metal
Make multiple passes at the recommended travel speed-slower is not better
Because sparks fly when welding,...
Because sparks fly when welding, try to keep your workspace clear of any flammable materials, including paper, cloth rags, oil, and gasoline. Open a window or door and use a box fan to exhaust harmful fumes away from your breathing area.
Made from 100 percent INDURA...
Made from 100 percent INDURA flame-resistant cotton, these 21-inch-long welding sleeves offer cool, lightweight protection, patches of pigskin leather, and a wide elastic band at the top of the sleeve for added comfort.
Proper coverage of exposed...
Proper coverage of exposed skin is key to protecting yourself while welding. This illustration shows the simple items that will keep you safe and out of the hospital.