Safety Articles

Article # 3202

Making a Case to Gear Up for Welding

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing industry has the highest incidence rate of occupational injuries and illnesses - reporting an average of 10.6 incidences per 100 full-time employees each year. This rate is higher than construction, transportation and public utilities and mining. Moreover, in manufacturing, the most costly lost-time workers' compensation claims - after amputation - are for those resulting from burn, contusion/ concussion, laceration, fracture and trauma.

All these areas of vulnerability have at least one common element: workers who weld face these hazards every day. Where there's welding, there are flying sparks and other potential hazards...conditions that demand workers be fully geared up with personal protective equipment from head to toe.

The Ultimate Body Guard
Ira Fisher, director of safety and training for a fuel tank supplier to the auto industry, notes that welders need to be fully outfitted to protect themselves properly. "At our company," he explains, "we have both tack welders and finish welders. The tack welder puts components in the tank - just touching the torch to keep it together. The finish welders do more welding. They actually weld the tanks together. We use a full range of gear - flame retardant jackets, sleeves, gloves, mitts, helmets, spats and leather jackets. Our welding technicians wear flame retardant 100% cotton uniforms, because of the flame retardant properties cotton provides over polyester. Then they wear a cape or apron for further protection from grease and sparks."

Vincent Roy, organizational services consultant, for a company that mines copper and molybdenum, notes that welding is a part of many workers' jobs at his facility. "We follow OSHA standards, of course," Roy says, "but in many cases we go beyond those minimum requirements. Our workers wear welding gloves, boots, hoods and a full range of hearing and eye protection. For big jobs, like milling, where full protection is needed, our workers wear leather jackets for added protection."

Dave Zeiler, foundry superintendent for a foundry that makes custom and captive castings and water well units, notes that it's important to provide workers with safety gear that is also comfortable. "Safety is, of course, our number one priority," he says. "But we try to keep the workers comfortable too. We have four full-time welders at our facility. They're in this gear almost all day."
Welders at our company normally wear "greens" - cotton, fire-resistant jackets. "They're lighter and more comfortable than leather or aluminum," he says. "However when the job calls for heavier protection, we make sure workers are geared up. For example, if we have some scrap with a lot of moisture in it, it will pop more and there's a greater risk for our furnace operators to be burned. That's when we ask our workers to wear leather or aluminum. "Zeiler notes that they've never had anyone burned through the greens, but "we don't want to take any chances."

Ralph Stevens, a buyer at a manufacturer of integrated automotive systems, adds that foot protection is a concern as well. "Our workers wear shoe covers to protect their shoes from any falling slag," he says. "We use spats to cover their shoes, that way we provide them with necessary protection while extending the life of their protective footwear."

Sometimes providing the right personal protective equipment can mean spending more money to ensure the best comfort along with the best protection. "We recently switched out several of our PPE items for more expensive alternatives," states Bill Wellington, C.P.M., CPIM, materials manager a manufacturer of HVAC components for commercial and residential use. "The more expensive items were selected based on the increased level of protection they provide, the added comfort they offer our employees and the quality that will help them last longer than the less expensive alternatives."

Wellington adds that most of the new items will last 3-4 times longer than the previous selections, so while the individual items are more expensive, in reality they will save money each year. "For instance, we recently switched leather gloves for some of our welding applications. By switching to the new glove that Magid recommended, we will reduce our annual expenditure on leather gloves by 75%."

When Standard Solutions Provide Sub-Standard Safety…
For companies such as these who are faced with extraordinary circumstances, standard solutions are not always adequate. In those instances, the companies often look to their Magid rep to help them find solutions for special problems or challenges. Fisher of the fuel tank supplier notes that the protective sleeves he had been using were not working well for all his workers. "The sleeves we were using had elastic at the top and bottom," he explains. "They just didn't fit everyone. For some, the opening was too large, and the sleeve would slip down. For others, the opening was too small and they'd quickly wear out the elastic." Fisher talked to his Magid rep about the problems and soon a solution was found. "Magid developed the solution to put a Velcro adjustment at the upper arm," says Fisher. "Now all our sleeves can be adjusted to fit any size arm. No more slipping!"

Zeiler of the foundry recalls a problem facing workers on the pouring deck. As they poured iron, the employees would often straddle the molds. "The gases and flames get pretty close to their legs when they do that," he explains. "On more than one occasion, the backs of workers' pants caught fire." The Magid rep came up with an answer a legging: a leather covering that protects the bottom of the leg from the knee to the top of the foot. "They attach with Velcro," Zeiler adds, "so one size fits all."

Stevens of the manufacturer of integrated automotive systems recalls that welders at his facility who were doing more intricate work were complaining that the heavy welders gloves did not allow them to perform many of their tasks easily. "We really needed a solution that gave the workers greater dexterity, but still offered adequate protection," he says. "So Magid designed a special glove made of high quality leather with an extended cuff that goes almost to the elbow. The workers wear the heavy welder's glove on one hand and this special glove on the other. It gives them dexterity plus protection with the longer cuffs."

Fisher recalls problems his welders were having with split leg aprons. "The aprons were too short," he says. "Sparks were burning holes in workers pants. We talked to our rep and Magid made a longer apron. Whatever the problem, it seems they can find a solution."

Magid provides extensive sampling programs for the HVAC component manufacturer. The company recently conducted a formal hazard assessment and implemented a revamped PPE program, based on findings. "During the initial stages of the new PPE program, Magid was here all the time," states Wellington. "Magid helped us find the best solutions when we made welding aprons a required part of our PPE as opposed to an optional item. We sampled several styles until we found the option that provided the best support, protection and comfort while relieving some of the pressure that the traditional loop-neck styles exert on workers' necks."

This company also taps into Magid's consultative approach to safety supply. Wellington notes, "We are continuously working with Magid to find new solutions to our safety challenges. We have over 400 production workers and not only do we need to keep them safe, we need to keep them comfortable as well."

It's that type of responsiveness that these customers depend upon. "We were using a 20 ounce terrycloth short knit cuff glove," adds Fisher. "But we were experiencing more cuts than we should have. We really needed a heavier and longer glove." Magid made samples for Fisher's team who chose a 30-ounce glove that has been working very well. "The new glove has helped reduce our hand and wrist cuts by over 30% from 1998 to 1999," says Fisher. "The new glove fits nicely with protective sleeves, too. We're very pleased."

A Serious Commitment
Whatever types of welding jobs workers engage in, one of the most important precautions to take is the choice and proper use of personal protective equipment. These companies take those responsibilities to their workers seriously. And they look to Magid as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to help them meet the challenges of keeping workers safe on the job.