9 Safety Tips When MIG Welding

MIG, or metal inert gas welding, is a welding process where a solid wire electrode is supplied to the welding gun and pool to join materials. While it is different from other types of welding, MIG welders should still follow the proper safety precautions to reduce the risk of harm.

MIG welders should take extreme precautions to ensure their safety while welding. Everything from cleanliness to protective gear, ventilation, to equipment maintenance should be taken seriously. Keep reading to find out the top 9 safety tips to consider when MIG welding.

Start With Proper Pre-Operation

Before starting your work, it is imperative to perform an essential MIG safety checklist. By taking these few extra steps before the weld, you can reduce the risk of anything occurring during the welding process. Welders should also ensure that their workspace is entirely organized. The organization is key to avoiding potential mishaps.

The safety checklist consists of the following:

Clean the Workspace

A clean workspace will provide you with an area that is free of potential hazards. Take care to get rid of any dirty plate(s) that may be contaminated with unknown substances. Also, remove all paint and coating before starting the weld.

Remove Flammable Liquids from the Workspace

MIG welding sends sparks during the welding procedure, which places you at high risk for starting a fire. You can minimize the risk by removing any flammable liquids or materials from the workspace. To ensure your workspace is free from combustible materials, do the following:

  • Check the walls for flame retardant qualities.
  • Inspect the floors for flame retardant qualities, such as concrete or cinder block.
  • Inspect the room for any flammable items. If found, place the item or substance at least 35 feet from the welding station.
  • Keep degreasing products out of the work area.

Check the Ventilation

Welding can let off an abundance of harmful fumes, depending on what type of materials are being welded. Some of the fumes and gases released into the air can be destructive to your health. For these reasons, it is vital to do the following.

  • Make sure the workspace has proper ventilation.
  • If necessary, wear respiratory protective equipment.
  • When recommended, use local exhaust ventilation.
  • Do not weld on any dirty plates, especially those where the substance is unknown.
  • Be extra careful when working with carbon dioxide. The proper carbon dioxide shield should be utilized. 
  • To minimize the risk of gas-related hazards, use a higher percentage during pulse-spray transfer or add argon gas. 
  • Be wary around materials that have toxic vapors, including lead, copper, zinc, and cadmium. 

Exposure to gaseous fumes while welding can bring about several illnesses. The severity of your symptoms will differ based on the concentration of the fumes’ harmful substance and how long the fumes were inhaled. Some of the dangerous illnesses caused by toxic gases and fumes include:

  • Lung infection. Lung infection is commonly caused by exposure to welding fumes and gases. Over time, the lung infection can develop into pneumonia. Some cases are life-threatening and require hospitalization, while others need bouts of antibiotics for curing.
  • Asthma. Some types of fumes, such as chromium and nickel oxide, can cause asthma. Predisposition makes this a more common occurrence, although it can occur to anyone.
  • Certain cancers. Lung cancers, mesothelioma, bladder, and kidney cancer can all occur from breathing in harmful fumes and gases. 
  • Metal fume fever. This welding-specific illness causes flu-like symptoms of varying degrees.
  • Irritation. Fumes and gases can also irritate, especially in the throat and lungs. These harmful substances can cause throat dryness and a tight chest, making it more challenging to breathe.

(TWI Global, NCBI)

Remove Jewelry and Loose Items

OSHA classes will inform you that jewelry should never be worn while welding. It is essential to remove all jewelry before starting a weld. Also, make sure that you are not wearing any other types of loose items or clothing.

The biggest concern with hanging or loose items is that the grinder may get a hold of them. This can lead to severe injuries. The same is true for long hair; it should always be tied back and away from the welding equipment.

Another issue with some jewelry, such as a watch, is that the radio noise coming from the welding arc can damage the watch. Splatter can also occur during MIG welding. If the splatter finds its way onto your jewelry, it can destroy the item and burn you in the process.

The best way to avoid potential injury and damage to your precious items is to remove them. Even studded earrings and wedding rings should be removed, although they present less risk. 

(Forum.WeldingTipsnadTricks)

Inspect the Gas Lines

MIG welding utilizes high-pressure gas during the process, whether from bottles or cylinders. Of course, this means that welders should inspect the gas lines thoroughly before operating the equipment. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Bottles must be chained at all times.
  • Bottles should never be capped during the welding process.
  • Make sure the cylinder has been recently tested and recertified. 
  • Check the cylinder’s certification status to ensure it is within the standards set by OSHA.
  • Place cylinders in a protected area. The cylinder should be far from potential hazards such as grease and fire. 
  • Be careful to ensure the cylinder is in a safe, upright position in which it cannot be tipped over. 
  • When finished, empty the cylinder thoroughly and shut it off. 
  • When using a high-pressure bottle, ensure all of the valves are either ON or OFF simultaneously. 
  • Inspect the gas line to make sure that there are no leaks before beginning.

(Weld Guru)

Operate the MIG Equipment Safely

Proper safety instructions should be followed while using the MIG equipment, too. Follow these safety steps while welding.

  • Clear the workspace from any unauthorized personnel.
  • Inspect your machine thoroughly. The device should have the correct current, voltage, and wire feed. Ensure that the shielding gas flow rate is set.
  • Inspect the tip and shield for any damage. If any damage is seen, replace it before welding.
  • Make sure that the nozzles are clean. Spatter will fall off of a clean nozzle. Clean it regularly and use anti-spatter compounds. 
  • Remember not to push the welding gun into the arc.
  • Protect other workers nearby by closing the UV curtain or set up a UV screen. 
  • Ensure that there is a good electrical contact from the welding return cable.
  • Do not leave the welding equipment unattended.
  • Keep hands away from the workpiece and electrode.
  • When you have completed the weld, turn off the shielding gas and turn the machine off. Secure the handpiece. 

(Uwaterloo, Utas)

Take Precaution to Avoid Electric Shock

During MIG welding, the welder uses a series of live electrical circuits to melt materials together. This close connection to electricity places the welder with a genuine risk of electric shock. Electric shock can kill you. That is why it is so important to take these proper safety precautions while welding:

  • Never touch a live electrical part.
  • Turn the machine off entirely when performing any type of repair work on the welding gun.
  • Turn the machine off entirely when performing any repair work on the inside of the welding device.
  • Be careful when removing the trigger as it can shock.
  • Do not touch any part of the electrode or electrode holder with wet skin or clothing.
  • Always keep insulation in-between the welded materials.

Keep in mind that some welding situations pose a higher risk than others. Those working in damp conditions, wearing wet clothing, working atop metal flooring or structures, or welding in a cramped workspace are at a higher risk for electrical shocks.

Stay Safe from Noise Hazards

Another genuine risk of MIG welding is the noise hazards. During MIG welding, the welder is exposed to many loud noises (over 100 dB(A)) for an extended period. Being exposed to such high frequencies can lead to hearing impairment and hearing loss. This can occur immediately or over time. 

The best way to keep yourself safe from noise hazards is to wear earmuffs or earplugs. Otherwise, you may experience the following symptoms from extreme noises:

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

(High-Speed Training)

Protect Yourself from UV and IR Radiation

During MIG welding, UV light is produced. Without the proper PPE and welding curtains, a long-lasting and painful condition known as arc-eye can occur. Arc-eye, also referred to as welder’s flash occurs when there is inflammation in the cornea from UV radiation exposure. 

Symptoms of arc-eye do not arise right away. In fact, UV damage can’t be felt. IR, on the other hand, can cause a burning sensation.

It can take hours before the symptoms show up. When symptoms begin to show, the welder may experience:

  • Pain ranging from mild to severe.
  • Tearing and reddening (bloodshot eyes).
  • Sandy feeling in the eyes.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Unable, or afraid, to look at specific light sources.
  • Cataracts.
  • Eventually, loss of vision.

Arc-eye typically doesn’t occur right away. The time necessary for arc-eye to occur depends on several factors, such as the intensity of the radiation and how far the welder is from the welding arc. The angle at which the radiation penetrates the eye also plays a role. 

To avoid arc-eye and other eye damages resulting from foreign bodies, fumes, or gases, welding eyewear is recommended. 

(High-Speed Training, CCOHS)

Fire Safety

MIG welding is known as a type of hot work. Hot work involves activities using ignition sources. With the inclusion of breathable air, there is only one element missing from a perfect fire triangle. That is why it is crucial to take extra precautions to prevent fires from occurring in the workspace. Here are some top tips.

  • Make sure that there are no flammable materials or substances nearby.
  • Keep welding away from materials with paint or dip.
  • Keep the workspace free of flammable floors, tables, and walls. 
  • Remove any flammable materials from inside the work material, such as a container.

Be Wary of the Wire Feeder

The wire feeder is also one of the significant safety issues presented to a welder. It can cause several damages, including fire. This is because the wire feeder can do the following:

  • The electrode stick-out has leftover hot molten metal that can penetrate a welding glove and cause pain and damage. 
  • The wire feeder can shock a welder when he or she is changing the MIG gun’s tip or wire.
  • Finally, a wire feeder can be accidentally triggered on, or the auto-feed feature is enabled. The wire feeder will create red hot wires that can set things on fire, cause shock to the welder, short circuit, or trigger something highly flammable, leading to a fire or explosion. 

(EHS Daily Advisor)

End With Proper Post-Operation

Starting the machine is just as important as turning off the machine. When you’re completed with your welding, the three most important things to do are to:

  • Turn the machine off entirely.
  • Close the gas cylinder firmly.
  • Return the welding gun to safe and proper storage.

To put it simply, welders need to be vigilant from the start to the end. Proper steps must be taken before welding as well as after. Be wary of sparks, UV rays, gases, fumes, and spatter. When the project is completed, ensure you always turn everything off otherwise you’re at risk of fires, spatter, and more.

What Type of Safety Equipment Should Be Worn When MIG Welding?

MIG welders are exposed to potentially dangerous elements, including fires, UV rays, and damaging fumes and gases. Wearing the proper safety equipment will minimize these risks and keep you safe during the welding process.

While MIG welding, protective clothing is essential. While welding, it is imperative to avoid rolling up sleeves or pant cuffs. This allows an entry point for sparks and spatters, which can cause burns ranging in severity. Do not tuck your pants into your boots. 

The proper clothing includes:

100% Fire-Resistant Clothing 

Wool clothing is recommended highly as opposed to synthetic materials. Some cotton is OK, as long as it is properly treated to resist high heat.

It is essential to avoid wearing loose clothing while welding. Loose clothing can get snagged on the equipment and can lead to serious harm. The same is true for long hair and jewelry. Remove all jewelry before welding. Hair should be tied up and a

Safety Glasses

Proper welding glasses must be used. Oxy-fuel goggles are not permitted because they do not protect from radiation. Proper welding goggles with properly shaded lenses are vital. They will typically come complete with a welding helmet.

As far as contacts are concerned, do not fear that they will be damaged or cause damage while welding. Contacts are safe to use as long as proper eyewear is worn while welding. However, if you’re unsure of your safety, consult the company for more information.

Welding Boots

Welding boots are leather boots designed with a six to eight-inch ankle coverage. Safety-toe boots are recommended for heavy work welding. Metatarsal guards are also appropriate for added protection from sparks.

Welding Gloves

Heavy and flame-resistant gloves are critical for protecting your hands from burns and cuts while welding. Leather is an excellent option. Always ensure that they are entirely dry before use. Wet gloves can cause issues, such as electrical shock.

Welding Helmet

A welding helmet is essential for welding. Even welding for a brief period can result in temporary and permanent damage. As previously mentioned, UV rays can cause what is known as arc-eye. Temporary effects are extreme discomfort and swelling, but permanent eye damage can occur if you are not careful.

That is why a welding helmet is 100% essential for your safety. When purchasing a welding helmet, pay close attention to the filter lens. When choosing the right filter lens, find a lens that is too dark to see the arc. Move to the nearest, lighter lens. However, be careful not to go below the minimum rating.

Ear Protection

Welders are exposed to extreme noise levels while welding. Even brief exposure to these loud noises can cause damage to the hearing. To avoid this, always make sure that you are wearing welding earplugs or earmuffs. IN addition to using earplugs or earmuffs, you can also install sound barriers. 

(Lincoln Electric)

Final Thoughts

Welders are exposed to different hazardous elements. Working with electricity, they are risking fires and electrical shock each day on the job. There is also the issue of damage to the eyes, ears and a heightened risk of certain illnesses and cancers.

The best way to avoid potential illnesses and harm one’s health is to follow these safety tips. It begins from the moment you step foot into the workplace. Always make sure you’re starting your weld in a clean, organized, and ventilated area. Wear the proper safety equipment at all times. 

Aside from protecting yourself from elements such as burns and cuts, welders should also take great care to avoid fire, electric, and gas disturbances. Ensuring that there are no flammable substances nearby and that there are no issues with the gas line are significant ways to reduce the risk of harm.

At the end of the day, welders are responsible for their safety and need to be extra careful on the job. Even the most experienced welders should take the time to inspect their area thoroughly and make sure that there is no chance of anything undesirable occurring while on the job.

Alexander Berk

A bit about myself: I am a certified international welding engineer (IWE) who worked in different welding projects for TIG, MIG, MAG, and Resistance Spot welding. Most recently as a Process Engineer for Laser and TIG welding processes. To address some of the questions I frequently got asked or was wondering myself during my job, I started this blog. It has become a bit of a pet project, as I want to learn more about the details about welding. I sincerely hope it will help you to improve your welding results as much as it did improve mine.

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