Although welding accidents are rarely fatal, they can lead to serious and debilitating injuries that have lifelong consequences. Some of those injuries include burns, long term effects from exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation, and electrical injuries.
The promotion of the use of personal safety equipment and regulation of procedures in the welding industry has translated into a decline in the number of welding-related accidents reported every year. However, every year, there are thousands of injuries caused in welding accidents, most of these in the construction sector.
A person who is involved in welding-related work may be at risk from the following hazards:
Electrocution, Electric Shock or Other Electrical Injuries
Not every serious electrical injury can kill. Even in those cases where workers survive a high-intensity electrical shock, they can be at risk of catastrophic injuries that include amputations, nerve burns, and other injuries that can affect the ability to use the affected body part.
Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation
Ultraviolet radiation is generated by the electric arc, and exposure to these rays can lead to serious burns. These rays are especially injurious to the lens of the eye. In fact, welders may be at an especially high risk of a condition called “arc-eye” or photokeratitis, in which a person has the sensation of having grit in the eyes.
Exposure to Infrared Radiation
Infrared radiation can affect the skin surface as well as the tissues that are located directly beneath the skin surface. This Infrared radiation is generated by flame- cutting equipment. In some cases, these infrared-related burns can grow into thermal burns, which are more serious.
A welder may also be exposed to all types of toxic gases. He may also be at risk of 2nd and 3rd degree burns to the hands and arms.
Prevention of Welding Injuries
Employers can reduce the risk of welding-related electrocution and electrical injuries by providing workers with protective insulated clothing. Safety gear must include insulated safety boots. The welding area must be kept completely clean and dry. The worker must stand on an insulating mat, and must use only an insulated electrode holder.
If the welding work is being conducted in the open air, then the equipment being used must be completely waterproof.
Protective clothing that can protect against welding-related injuries includes face and head shields fitted with sufficiently darkened filter glasses that can absorb UV and IR rays.
John J. Sheehan is a Boston construction accident attorney, dedicated to the representation of workers who have suffered injuries in welding accidents, and other accidents on construction sites in the Boston region and across Massachusetts.