6 Common Dangers of TIG Welding – A Safety Guide

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If you’re looking to get started with welding, then know that you’ll be experiencing one of the most creative and artistic metalworking hobbies around. Welding is intrinsically rewarding and provides you with the ability to make a bevy of artistic creations. However, whenever you are welding, you’ll need to be aware of some standard safety practices so that you avoid any potential hazards while enjoying your hobby.

What are the everyday dangers of TIG welding? The hazards of TIG welding include:

  1. Injuries from gas cylinders
  2. Exposure to dangerous fumes
  3. Accidents caused by a cluttered work environment
  4. Electrocution from water
  5. Electric shock
  6. Fire and explosions

Since there isn’t much information available online today covering the dangers of TIG welding, we’re going to discuss some of the potential hazards for you and outline some standard safety practices to help you out. By making sure you have the right equipment, and by being aware of possible risks, you’ll be able to stay safe and enjoy TIG welding for many years to come.

Dangers in the Welding Work Environment

Clearly welding is a job with many hazards, which is why there is so much safety gear required for it, as we will discuss later.

To help get you started thinking about how to stay safe while welding, we’re going to cover some of the most common risks you’ll find in the welding environment, and how you can address them so that you stay safe at all times.

Welding is a safe activity to embark on when the right types of precautions are taken before starting. However, if welders ignore specific safety measures, they’ll wind up placing themselves in a wide range of potential dangers that can occur due to permanent damage. Some of those dangers include electric shock, fumes and gases, fire and explosions, and more.

Before you start any welding project, make sure you:

  • Read and fully comprehend the manufacturer’s directions as it applies to the equipment you’ll be using.
  • Review material safety data sheets.
  • If you work for a company, make sure you follow that company’s internal safety practices.

Knowing about the most common welding dangers and how to avoid them will help you stay safe and productive as you complete your next welding project. We’ll cover some of the potential risks of welding in more detail below.

#1 Injury from Gas Cylinders

Gas cylinders can be surprisingly dangerous. For example, if you accidentally cause one to fall and the valve comes off, you’ll wind up with a gas cylinder that’s shooting across the room at high speed. If you wind up getting hit with the gas cylinder, then you’re likely to experience an injury.

Whenever you are working around gas cylinders, make sure you securely chain your cylinder to some upright support. Anytime you move a cylinder, make sure you put a protective cap over the valve so that you don’t wind up incurring any damage.

Also, make sure you read all safety guidelines provided by the manufacturer of your gas cylinder before you start using the product. You want to make sure you are knowledgeable about the safety precautions outlined in the owner’s manual.

#2 Exposure to Dangerous Fumes and Gases

As you do your work welding, you’ll be emitting plenty of fumes that can be a health hazard for both yourself and any person that’s in the vicinity near you. If you are welding in a smaller space, then fumes can accumulate, and you may wind up doing some damage.

Remember that if you are welding with a shielding gas, you don’t want Carbon Dioxide or Argon to get released into the room you are with which you are working. You might also run into other dangers from fumes you’ve never heard about before. For example, Hexavalent Chromium is a fume created during the welding process when you cut stainless steel and other alloys.

Proper ventilation when you are welding is a crucial safety issue. If you’re curious to see how important this safety concern is, search online for “welding fume lawsuit” and you’ll see that many companies are being sued for creating respiratory problems in welders due to poor ventilation.

  • So, as you prepare to complete your welding project, make sure you’ve got an exhaust hood in the area that you’re welding in. That way, you know clean air can get into space where you’re welding.
  • If you don’t have an exhaust hood available in the area where you’ll be welding, then you’ll want to move to a better-ventilated area or think about getting one installed.
  • You do have other options, like downdraft tables and benchtop fume extractors. Those types of products work well when conducting small projects.
  • However, if you employ other welders, then you’ll need to set up a shop that complies with OSHA’s regulations.
  • So, we recommend making sure that whether you are welding alone or with others, you install an exhaust hood for proper ventilation. 

Another thing you’ll need to be aware of is the dangers of the gases you’ll come across as you are welding. If you become overexposed to welding gases, you’ll likely experience health issues. That’s because many welding gases have harmful complex metal oxide compounds in them. So, you need to keep your head out of the gases and make sure you are ventilating your area well.

To handle gases safely, you’ll want to do the following.

  • Make sure you have plenty of adequate ventilation that expels local exhaust and keeps gases from your breathing zone.
  • Many employers provide a ventilation system like a fan, an exhaust system, or a fixed or removable exhaust hood.
  • If you are working in your shop, we recommend you get an exhaust hood to provide plenty of ventilation.

Remember, you should wear an approved respirator when welding every day if you are exposed to a lot of harsh gases and fumes so that you don’t wind up with health problems from daily exposure to these dangers.

#3 Accidents Caused by a Cluttered Work Environment

Another common danger you’ll want to avoid when welding is a clutter. You’ll want to make sure that you keep the area you are working in clutter-free so that you don’t wind up incurring an accident. While it’s tempting to leave spare pieces of metal and tools lying everywhere, for safety reasons, it’s best to take a little extra time and move those items out of the way.

It can be an annoying and disheartening experience to trip over some clutter you have around your welding area so that you wind up injuring yourself. Injuries that are avoidable and put a damper on your welding plans are never fun.

So, keep your tools and other items organized and your workspace free from clutter as you work. If you make your tools easy to find while you are welding, you’ll wind up saving time as you weld. The welding process should go faster if you know where to find everything.

You’ll also want to make sure you remove fire hazards that are near you as you are welding. So make sure you remove things from your area like paper documents, towels, or clothes that might create a fire danger. Also, group or hide your cables as you work so you don’t wind up falling over them.

#4 Electrocution Caused by Water

You also need to make sure that you weld in a dry area that is free from water or moisture. Since water conducts electricity, you don’t want to weld near it or in moist areas. Even just a small amount of water on the ground can be dangerous. So, if you find even a tiny amount of water somewhere, make sure you clean it up.

Water can kill you while you weld, so it’s hazardous to have it near you.

#5 Electric Shock

Electric shock is a considerable risk most welders face daily. Electrical shock can cause severe injury or death. When people experience an electric shock, either the power of the electricity can kill the person, or a fall caused by the reaction to the shock can also do great harm to an individual.

When welders touch two metal objects that both have a voltage, then that welder will experience an electric shock. By accidentally inserting yourself into an electrical circuit, you could wind up with a severe injury.

For example, if a welder has a bare wire in one hand and then holds a second bare wire with his other hand, an electric current will pass through that wire and the welding operator. That electrical current will eventually create an electric shock. When electric shock occurs, the higher the voltage, the higher the current, and the worse the electric shock will feel.

If an electric shock occurs with higher voltage and higher current, it is more likely to cause injury and death. The most common type of electrical shock experienced by welders is secondary voltage shock from an arc welding circuit. Those circuits typically vary from 20 to 100 volts. However, remember that even a shot of 50 volts or less can be enough to injure or kill a person, depending on the severity of the shock.

Also, because alternating current (AC) voltage constantly changes in polarity, its energy is more likely to stop the heard than direct current (DC) voltage. Also, getting shocked with an AC makes it difficult for the person holding the wire to let go, making the shock experience even worse.

Here is what you can do to avoid secondary voltage shock:

  • Make sure you are wearing dry gloves that are good condition whenever you are welding.
  • Don’t touch the electrode or other metal parts of the electrode holder with your skin or any wet clothing.
  • Make sure you insulate yourself from the work and ground, keeping dry insulation between your body and the metal being welded.
  • Inspect the electrode holder for damage before you start welding.
  • Keep the welding cable and electrode holder insulation in good working condition. Remember that the plastic or fiber insulation on the electrode holder helps to prevent contact with electrically “hot” metal parts, keeping you safe.
  • Make sure you repair or replace damaged insulation before you use it.
  • Keep in mind that stick electrodes are always electrically hot, even if you aren’t welding at the time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that primary voltage shock, a severe form of trauma, can happen whenever a welder makes contact with electrically “hot” parts inside the welder case or the electric distribution system. If a welder winds up doing this, he or she could experience a shock of 230 to 460 volts.

Also, remember that when welding equipment is not turned on but still in use, it will retain a voltage from between 20 to 100 volts. Also, voltages inside the welding equipment could range from 120 volts to 575 volts, which poses a severe risk to electric shock. If you need to repair any of your welding equipment, you should contact a qualified repair technician and avoid doing it yourself.

#6: Fire and Explosions

Welding causes extreme temperatures, and that can create hazards with fire and explosions. The welding arc’s temperatures can reach an astonishing 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning things will get incredibly hot as you weld.

However, while the welding arc gets very hot, the real danger isn’t from the welding arc itself. The intense heat near the arc, as well as the sparks and spatter the arc creates serious risks. This spatter can go as far as 35-feet from the welding space.

Here is what you should do to prevent fires and explosions:

  • Look over your work area and make sure you remove any flammable materials from your workspace.
  • Remember, flammable materials can be liquids like gasoline, oil, and paint, solids like wood, and gasses like propane and hydrogen.

Proper Welding Equipment Can Keep You Safe from Danger

Many of the best welding safety practices sound like common sense to most people, like keeping your body covered. However, not every safety rule you’ll need to know about welding will seem quite so obvious. So, you’ll need to take time to learn the best practices of welding as well as the proper equipment you’ll need to use so that you stay safe each time you undertake a welding project.

Below we’ll cover some of the safety basics you’ll need to know when you start welding. We’ll also cover the types of clothing you should wear to stay safe, how to wear those clothes, and the best ways to stay safe while you are in the process of welding.

Whether you enjoy welding alone in your garage for fun or you’re considering starting your own welding business, you’ll need to take time to read through all the safety manuals of all the equipment you purchase so that you understand your material.

Use Protective Clothing for Welding

To prevent any potential injuries, you’ll need to make sure you wear protective clothing for welding whenever you undertake your hobby. Garments designed for welding are constructed to protect you from the dangers of your past time, so make sure you purchase appropriate welding clothes so that you’ll have the right amount of welding protection.

The types of clothes welders usually wear include:

  • Welding bandana
  • Welding helmet
  • Welding safety goggles
  • Welding gloves
  • Leather apron
  • Demin pants
  • Leather shoes

It’s essential to wear the right amount of protection in your clothing when welding because welding produces sparks and emits rays, which can damage your skin and eyes if you don’t protect your body correctly. If you leave any skin exposed while you’re welding, you might wind up burning those parts of your skin. 

So, to help you understand what you’ll need to wear so you’ll stay safe when welding, we’ve covered the necessary welding equipment and clothing you’ll need in a bit more detail below. 

Welding Gloves and Gauntlets

Whenever you are welding, you’ll need to make sure that you wear heat resistant gloves. When you shop for welding gloves, you’ll find a lot of options on the market today. Many different welding gloves are made for specific processes, so you should be able to find what you need once you know how you’ll approach your welding.

Nowadays, welding gloves and gauntlets are comprised of a bevy of different kinds of materials, including deerskin, pigskin, goatskin, Kevlar, and feature things like wool and fleece lining to make the gloves more comfortable.

If you tend to weld at high heats, then you might want to consider purchasing more heavy-duty gloves that can handle all types of temperatures. When you are MIG welding, consider using medium-range gloves. However, when you are TIG welding, you should consider using thinner leather gloves, so you get the skill and flexibility you need to complete this kind of welding project successfully.

Welding Footwear

Next, after you’ve purchased some suitable welding gloves, you’ll need to consider getting the appropriate welding footwear to keep your feet and toes safe from the heat. Buying a pair of high top boots or durable leather shoes will give you the type of protection from the heat that you’ll want for every welding project that you tackle. 

Suitable welding footwear should be made out of leather or rubber. You’ll also need to make sure you wear the legs of your pants over the top of your boots for even better protection. It’s a good idea to purchase steel toe-capped boots as well to keep your toes safe. Also, if you prefer lace-up boots, then make sure you buy some with a metatarsal guard. 

Welding Shirt and Pants

You’ll also need to think about the type of shirt and pants you’ll purchase for your welding hobby. When you are welding, it’s best to avoid short-sleeved shirts as well as shorts. That’s because you want your skin to be covered for more protection when you are welding, and short-sleeved shirts and shorts don’t cover enough of your skin to provide a decent level of security.

So, you’ll want to purchase long-sleeved shirts and long pants that are also flame resistant. We recommend purchasing Demin pants because they are fire-resistant. Make sure you also wear a welding jacket or apron for extra protection whenever you get busy with a welding project. Also, you should pick up a flame-resistant coat, and there are many cheap options in those types of jackets on the market today. 

Welding Helmets

Welding helmets are one of the essential pieces of equipment you’ll need whenever you are welding because your welding helmet will protect you from exposure to arc radiation. Any exposure to arc radiation, while you are welding, can seriously damage your eye.

That’s why you’ll need to wear professional and high-quality eye protection whenever you are busy welding. When you purchase a welding helmet, you’ll find that they fall into two different categories: fixed shade helmets and auto-darkening helmets. We’ll cover the differences between these two helmets in more detail below.

Fixed Shade Helmets

When purchasing a fixed shade helmet, you’ll need to make sure you buy the correct shade for the type of weld you will be completing. Fixed shade helmets only offer the same level of protection regardless of the level of light created by the arc.

So, fixed shade helmets come in different grades, and specific categories are suited well to different types of amperage. Most choices in fixed shade helmets fall between #9 to #13, but some manufacturers range from #8 to #13. If you need more information about what type of fixed shade helmet is best for your welding application, check out the OSHA website.

Auto-Darkening Helmets

The next type of welding helmet you’ll find on the market today is auto-darkening helmets. These types of helmets react to the arc and vary their shade depending on what you are welding.

So, if you are only doing one type of welding on one material and using the same parameters, then fixed shade will work for you. However, if you are going to vary your welding parameters, then you’ll be much better off with an auto-darkening helmet.

New technology has helped give auto-darkening welding helmets many advantages. Previously auto-darkening helmets used to have optical sensors that sensed light from the weld and adjusted as needed. However, now auto-darkening helmets include two, three, or four magnetic sensors that detect the magnetic field created by the arc.

So, nowadays, auto-darkening helmets can adjust the shade of the lens with a lot of reliability and efficiency. Today, most auto-darkening helmets adjust in as few as 0.00003 seconds.

If you are going to purchase an auto-darkening helmet, you need to ensure that it follows the ANSI Z87 safety standards. As long as the helmet states that it meets these standards, then you’ll know that the helmet has been adequately tested, and it is safe to use.

Welding Bandanas

You’ll also need to consider purchasing an appropriate welding bandana before you get started with your welding adventures. You’ll need to make sure you have a layer of protection between your welding helmet and your head, and that’s where your welding bandana comes in. You’ll want to get a thin bandana or thin cotton hat to protect your head inside of your welding helmet.

Welding Safety Glasses

The last piece of welding equipment you’ll need to make sure you have before you get started welding is welding safety glasses. You’ll need to wear your welding safety glasses underneath your helmet so that you have plenty of protection for your eyes. It’s a good idea to wear your welding safety glasses anytime you need to protect your eyes from dust and debris.

You’ll want to make sure your welding safety glasses cover your eyes at the side and are either wraparound lenses or have side shields that fall in line with ANSI Z87 standards. If you wish, you can also wear safety glasses instead of a welding helmet when you need to get into a smaller space. However, you’ll also need to be careful when you do this because you won’t be protecting your face.

Once you’ve purchased all of the proper welding equipment, you’ll be ready to get started with your welding projects. Remember that you don’t want to skimp out on quality as far as welding equipment goes. You’ll want to make sure you get the best protection so that you stay safe while you enjoy your hobby. Making sure you purchase equipment that offers adequate protection will help prevent you from experiencing any potential injuries.

In Conclusion…

While welding is a hobby and an occupation that presents many dangers, it can be done safely with minimal risks if you wear proper equipment and follow some basic safety guidelines like keeping your workspace clean and clutter-free, keeping water and flammable materials out of the workplace, taking precautions against electrocution, and keeping your workplace ventilated.

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