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    Welding Safety | Winter 2012 Out Here Magazine

    Using an electric arc welder? Protect yourself with these tips

    man in safety gear using an electric arc welder
    Out Here

    By the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension

    Photography by Mike Roemer

    The electric arc welder remains one of our most useful and time-saving pieces of shop equipment. Properly installed and used, the arc welder is safe, but if used improperly you can be exposed to such hazards as toxic fumes, dusts, burns, fires, explosions, electric shock, radiation, noise, and heat stress.

    These guidelines can minimize those risks.


    In general, when welding metals not considered hazardous, a ventilation system that will move a minimum of 2,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air per welder is satisfactory.

    However, many materials are considered very hazardous and should be welded only in areas with an exhaust system located as close to the work as possible.

    When welding or cutting metals with hazardous coatings, such as galvanized metal, use a supplied-air type respirator or a respirator specially designed to filter the specific metal fume.


    An arc welder is capable of producing temperatures in excess of 10,000 degrees F, so the workplace must be fire-safe by using metal sheets or fire-resistant curtains as fire barriers, and working on a concrete or other fire-resistant floor.

    Fill cracks in the floor to prevent sparks and hot metal from entering.

    When work cannot be moved to a fire-safe area, then remove or protect combustibles and ask someone to watch for fires that could go undetected until the welder has finished the job.

    Always keep extinguishing equipment available.


    Wear proper protective clothing to shield yourself from heat, ultraviolet rays, and sparks.

    A pair of fire retardant longsleeved coveralls without cuffs is best. Avoid clothing with tears, snags, rips, or worn spots, because sparks easily ignites these.

    Protect your hands with leather gauntlet gloves and your feet with a pair of high-top leather shoes, preferably safety shoes. If your shoes are not high-top, protect your ankles with fire-resistant leggings.

    A flame-proof skullcap will protect the hair and head.

    Shield your eyes with transparent goggles if you wear prescription glasses or safety glasses if you don't. A welding helmet or hand shield with filter plate and cover plate is mandatory for eye protection from the harmful rays of the arc.

    The filter plate should be at least shade #10 for general welding up to 200 amps. However, certain operations such as carbon-arc welding and higher current welding operations require darker shades.

    Never use a helmet with a cracked or broken filter plate or cover.


    Work to be welded should be placed on a firebrick surface at a comfortable height, if possible.

    Because of their potentially explosive nature, never weld or cut on used drums, barrels, tanks, or other containers. And never weld directly on a concrete floor, because heat from the arc can cause steam to build up in the floor, which could cause an explosion.

    Electric welders can cause electric shock, so always stand on an insulating mat if you must stand on steel or other conductive material. If the welding area is wet or damp or you're actively perspiring, wear rubber gloves under your welding gloves.

    When you're finished for the day, remove the electrodes from the holder and place the holder where no accidental contact could occur. Always disconnect your welder from the power source.

    Information courtesy of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.


    Learn safety tips for that, along with which welding materials are considered very hazardous by clicking here.


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