Welding Safety FAQs - Misc. Welding Safety

Shop Warning Labels
Q: What is a warning label?
A: A warning label is a label that contains information about the safe use of a product that you need to know to use the product safely. You should read a warning label prior to first using a product.
Q: On what types of welding machines can you find warning labels?
A: You can find warning labels on the following types of arc welding and cutting products:
arc welding equipment, including arc welders and wire feeders and arc welding electrode and flux products.
Q: What types of hazards and reference information does a typical warning label review?
A: A warning label covers the basic hazards encountered in arc welding such as exposure to arc welding, fumes and gases, electric shock, arc rays and fire and explosion. It also instructs the welder to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and refers the welder to the OSHA Regulations and the American National Standard regarding Arc Welding and Cutting Safety (ANSI  Z49.1).
Q: Why is it a good idea to review warnings periodically?
A: Warnings on electrode and flux products are updated occasionally so it is a good idea to review them again periodically to be sure you have the information you need to use the product safely. The warnings also vary from product to product so when you change the product you are using you should review the warning on the new product when you begin to use it.
Q: What is the purpose of a special ventilation note?
A: Special ventilation notes inform the user that a particular substance in the electrode is present in sufficient amounts and that additional ventilation is needed to properly control fume exposure. Special ventilation notes commonly relate to manganese and chromium in the welding fume, however other substances may also require such notes. Special attention to ventilation is important when welding with products having such notes.
Q: Why were Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) developed?
A: MSDS were developed to inform millions of American workers of the potential hazards of handling and working with thousands of chemicals and other substances.
Q: Does each consumable product have an MSDS?
A: An MSDS is available for all welding electrodes and fluxes and may be obtained from welding distributors or the manufacturers.
Q: What system provides information about the amount of chemical in welding fume that a welder may be repeatedly exposed to?
A: Both the TLV and PEL relate to the measured weight (in milligrams) of welding fume per volume (in cubic meters) to which you may be repeatedly exposed without adverse health effects.
Q: What is the difference between the PEL and the TLV?
A: The PEL figure is similar to the TLV except that is has been adopted by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Q: What are typical symptoms of short-term overexposure to welding fumes?
A: Short-term overexposure, for instance, can cause dizziness, nausea or irritation of the nose, throat and eyes. Long-term overexposure to welding fumes can lead to siderosis (iron deposits in the lungs) which is not normally harmful but in large amounts may affect breathing generally.
Q: What medical procedure should be followed if an accident occurs?
A: Emergency and First Aid procedures are very important but provide only initial guidance. Always call a doctor or local emergency squads as quickly as possible after an accident occurs. Review the emergency and first aid procedure section in the MSDS to be sure you or at least one of your co-workers can give the first aid treatment suggested. To learn CPR see your local Red Cross chapter.
Q: What type of information is included in the reactivity data portion of an MSDS?
A: This section describes the effects upon the material when it reacts with another material. In the case of welding electrodes, the reaction is the welding process and the result, other than the actual weld, is that some of the electrode ingredients and other nearby materials (oils, coating, air, etc.) react in the intense heat to produce welding fumes and  gases. Since the reactions that take place are complicated and vary depending upon the situation, the fumes and gases also vary.
Q: What is the purpose of the Control Measure and Precautions for Handling and Use sections of the MSDS?
A: The purpose of this section is to provide information about how exposure to the material, including welding fume, can be controlled. This section also provides information about how the material can be handled safely. 
Trailer Safety
Q: What is the most important consideration in selecting a trailer for your application?
A: Trailer capacity must be adequate for the payload.
Q: Where can you find the rated capacity for a trailer?
A: Check the manufacturer's specifications and the capacity plate on the trailer.
Q: What is the most important consideration in selecting a tow vehicle?
A: Tow vehicle and hitch capacity. Check capacity and serviceability of the tow vehicle and hitch.
Q: What is generally recommended minimum tongue weight for a trailer?
A: Always maintain a minimum tongue weight of approximately 8% of total trailer plus payload weight.
Q: How and when should safety chains be connected when towing a trailer?
A: Safety chains should always be crossed under the tongue of the trailer and connected to the eyes of the hitch. Install safety chains on trailer before towing the trailer. Be sure the safety chains and emergency brake cable are in place and properly connected.
Q: What should be done to be sure that the trailer and tow vehicles tires are prepared for towing?
A: Check the tires and tire pressure. Inspect all tires for damage or wear - this includes the tow vehicle tires. Tire pressures should be set to the trailer or vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure and not greater than the maximum pressure on the tire.
Q: What should be checked about the wheels on the trailer and tow vehicle before towing?
A: Check to be sure all lug nuts are tight. Be sure bearings are serviced and have grease. Bearing failure can cause a wheel and tire to separate from the trailer.
Q: What about the trailer lights should be checked before towing?
A: Check to see that the trailer wiring is properly hooked up and working. Do not tow trailer after dark without lights.
Q: What can be done to avoid fuel leakage with engine driven equipment is towed?
A: Most engine driven equipment has a shutoff in the fuel line or at the tank. Always shut off the fuel when trailoring to prevent fuel leakage.
Q: What should you do if a trailer begins to sway or become difficult to control?
A: If the trailer is not stable or if a problem develops or something does not feel right do not ignore it. Do not continue to tow the trailer if you think there is a problem. Immediately slow down and pull the trailer off the road in a safe location and recheck the trailer and tow vehicle. Fix the problem off the road.
Welding in Confined Spaces
Q: How does welding in a confined space affect the safety precautions that should be taken?
A: When arc welding in a confined area, such as a boiler, tank, ship hold, or similar confined, enclosed or restricted space, bear in  mind that all the hazards associated with normal arc welding are amplified. Therefore, special precautions must always be taken.
Q: What is the definition of a confined space?
A: The definition of a confined space, according to OSHA is: 1) it is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work 2) has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example: bins, silos, tanks, vessels, hoppers, vaults and pits) and 3) is not designed for continuous human occupancy.
Q: What hazards are more of concern when welding in a confined space?
A: In a confined space there is a greater danger that flammable gases may be present that could cause an explosion. Also, the walls of a metal enclosure or space can become electrically energized and become part of the circuit, presenting an electrical hazard to the welder or other entrants. Fumes from welding or other hot work can accumulate more rapidly and concentrate to dangerous levels in enclosed or confined spaces. Fumes generated from the work itself or the gases used for welding and hot work can also have the potential to displace or force out breathable air, while also potentially consuming and reducing oxygen concentrations to below safe levels.
Q: What should be done to evaluate the atmosphere inside a confined space prior to entering?
A: The following atmospheric hazards must be assessed for any confined space prior to entry: 1) test for safe oxygen levels 2) test for combustible gases and vapors and 3) test for toxic gases and vapors.
Q: What precautions must employers take if they have a confined space in the workplace?
A: Employers must have a written confined space entry program that includes specialized training for employees that enter confined spaces, serve as attendants to those entering and for those who supervise confined space entries. They must also have a written entry permit process that includes a hazard assessment and specific entry procedures that employees must follow in order to safely complete assigned work.
EMF, Pacemakers and Defibrillators
Q: What causes electric and magnetic fields (EMF)?
A: Electric current flowing through any conductor causes localized Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF). For example, when you are welding the welding current flowing through your arc welder and welding cables creates an EMF field near the welder and the welding cables.
Q: What precautions should be taken by welders who have pacemakers or defibrillators?
A: Since EMF fields may interfere with some pacemakers, welders having a pacemaker (or defibrillator) should consult their physician before welding.
Q: What is known about the health effects of exposure to EMF fields in welding?
A: Exposure to EMF fields in welding may have other health effects which are now not known. It is prudent for you to use good practice when arc welding to minimize your exposure to EMF.
Q: What procedures should be followed by the welder to reduce exposure to EMF?
A: All welders should use the following procedures in order to minimize exposure to EMF fields from the welding circuit: route the electrode and work cables together. Secure them with tape or tie wraps when possible. If the cables are routed together, the EMF field at that point is reduced. Some cables even include electrode and work conductors inside one cable which may be a convenient way to reduce EMF exposure.
Q: Why should you never coil the electrode or work cables around your body?
A: Coiling the cables around your body increases your exposure to EMF.
Q: How should cable be positioned relative to your body when welding?
A: Do not place your body between the electrode and work cables. If the electrode cable is on your right side, the work cable should also be on your right side.There is an EMF field at and between each cable.
Q: What is the recommended point at which the work cable should be connected to work?
A: Connect the work cable to the work piece as close as possible to the area being welded.
Q: Why is it not good practice to weld next to the welding power source?
A: Welding next to the welding power source increases your exposure the EMF due to the field located at the welder.
Q: What arc welding processes minimize EMF exposure and may be particularly suitable for welders that have a pacemaker or defibrillator and for whom welding has been approved by their physician?
A: You may further minimize EMF exposure by using arc welding processes such as TIG or by welding at the lowest DC output settings acceptable for your welding application. This is particularly important if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator.
Q: What precautions should be taken prior to welding by any welder that has a pacemaker or defibrillator?
A: If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator and wish to continue to weld you must talk to your physician and follow the advice that he gives. Your physician may want to contact the manufacturer of the pacemaker to obtain their recommendation about arc welding. In some cases your physician may advise against continuing to weld.