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Article # 5101

Where There's Smoke There's Spatter - Safety on the Welding Line

Like race car drivers and football players, welders rely on their personal protective equipment to safety perform their duties. Because the welding environment can be dangerous, a welder's personal protective equipment (PPE) must be dependable, comfortable, and tough.

Often, personal protective equipment must be modified or specially designed to fit the needs of a specific application.

Recently, a leading construction equipment manufacturer's Large Mining Product Operation turned to Magid for a way to protect welders as they performed multi-pass welding operations on the division's gigantic products. During welding, the metal structures absorb heat, sending their surface temperature soaring to more than 100 degrees and creating a dangerous and uncomfortable situation for the people who come in contact with the structure during the welding procedure. "To provide a measure of safety and comfort for our welders, Magid designed and manufactured extra thick, leather, insulated welding blankets that the welders can place on the structures as they work on them," says Bob Palmer, manufacturing manager for the Large Mining and Construction Equipment Division. "The welding blanket cut down on discomfort caused by the intense heat of the application, and also significantly reduced the incidence of burns."

Something is Burning
Welding not only produces searing sparks, but also choking smoke and fumes. "Fumes are our biggest concern," says Fred Emanuel, general supervisor, corporate safety of a steel manufacturer. "Fumes are one of the worst things that a welder can be exposed to over prolonged periods. That's why we've been aggressively educating our welders about the benefits of using a respirator."

To protect themselves against the long term affects of fumes, welders have to take advanced measures. These measures often include wearing respirators, which filter particles out of the air, making it safe to breathe. Particulate filters use different mechanisms to capture particles depending on their size. A filter's efficiency and breathing resistance increases as it captures more particles.

Emanuel continues: "Our Magid representative does a great job in coordinating respirator training for us. He has brought in outside experts from 3M to study our welding operations and helped us determine what needs to be done to make the job safer. In addition, Magid has established a ‘Safety on Site' store at the plant, which stocks everything we need, including back-up respirators."

Investment in the Future
In addition to the intense fumes, the steel manufacturer's arc welding operations create infrared and ultra violet radiation, which can quickly cause eye and skin damage. A host of protective equipment - including hoods and face shields - is worn to protect against the damaging radiation by preventing it from reaching the welder's body."In addition to respirators, our welders also use aluminized welding gloves, fire retardant pants and jackets, and aluminized or wool welding coats," says Emanuel. "When you put welders in the right equipment, it is an investment in the future. "Like the steel manufacturer, an outdoor power equipment manufacturer is also making an investment in the future of its welders. At the outdoor power equipment manufacturer, wire feed welding is done on the parts prior to painting. During the wire feed welding, fumes are released when the welding arc strikes metal. In addition, lubricants that are sprayed on the parts to prevent rust also create fumes during the welding process.

According to the outdoor power equipment manufacturer's Safety and Health Administrator, Diane Simpson, the company changed the style of its respirator to accommodate the smaller facial features of its female welders. The discovery that women were having a fitting problem was made during the annual fit test training conducted by 3M and arranged by Magid. For more than three years now, the company has been using a respirator designed for optimum fit and comfort.

"With the new model respirators, our employees don't go home with sinus or congestion problems," says Simpson. "This has a direct impact on our bottom line, because it equates to less sick days."

When it comes to welding, danger is part of the job, and the right personal protective equipment is critical to the long-term safety and health of those who do it.