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articles image_0028_82.jpgThe Greatest Sources of Injury in Welding Operations

January 8, 2019

Among occupations in the construction and manufacturing trades, welding represents one of the most hazardous. The process of joining metal parts together using high-voltage electrical currents or volatile gases and heat is inherently dangerous, even for skilled professionals. Most manufacturing operations have implemented rigorous standards to ensure the safety of their personnel; this aspect of the risk management strategy also typically includes welding and fabrication insurance to protect against liability claims. Even with these protections in place, welding remains a leading source of injury. In this guide, we will explore the greatest sources of injury in welding operations and address solutions for minimizing risks.

Welding Injuries in the Workplace: Facts and Figures

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), over half a million U.S. workers are at risk of welding-related injuries. In fact, the risks associated with workplace operations that include welding, cutting, and brazing result in the deaths of approximately 60 workers each year in the United States alone. This number translates to a risk of greater than four fatal injuries in every thousand workers over their careers.

Specific non-fatal injuries may vary, and include exposure to high heat, radiation, gases, and chemical fumes. Injuries may include:

  • Electric shocks
  • Burns from fire and explosions
  • Manganism (exposure to toxic manganese released during welding operations)
  • Arc radiation burns, including burns to the eyes

Eye injuries are the most common. “Welder’s flash,” or burns to the eyes due to ultraviolet light emitted from certain welding operations, account for nearly 6% of all workplace-related eye injuries for all construction trades. In Canada, more than 20% of all workers compensation claims for eye injuries were filed by those in the welding profession.

Reducing Workplace Welding Injuries

Manufacturing and fabrication firms have a duty to protect their employees from injury on the job. The fact is, however, that even with safety standards in place, injuries can and do occur. For welding operations, access to personal protective equipment, or PPE, is critical in reducing common injuries like burns and exposure to gases. PPE includes protective face masks and eye shields to eliminate welder’s flash injuries to the eyes and face. This protective equipment typically includes heavy gloves and fire-resistant aprons or coats to prevent welding spatter from causing burns. In areas where exposure to metal fumes or toxic gases may be at elevated levels, welders often use helmets with breathing apparatus to avoid inhalation of dangerous substances.

Regular training and recertification of welding professionals is a critical part of the risk management process. In fact, the risks associated with welding are so great that OSHA designates the profession as one of its risk priorities, and has established industry training best practices as a result of this designation. Manufacturing operations that include welding as one of the fabrication processes must ensure that their employees have the latest information and techniques to protect themselves in the workplace. Combined with protective equipment, this training is invaluable at reducing the instance of injury claims.

The Role of Welding and Fabrication Insurance

No matter how careful manufacturing firms are during welding operations, the possibility of a severe or fatal injury occurring in the workplace remains. To protect the company, its employees, and its financial assets from the losses associated with injury claims, welding and fabrication insurance represents the foundation on which risk management is built. Major insurance underwriters offer this form of general liability supplemental insurance across target classes, including welders and fabricators in the agricultural, automotive, transportation, and aerospace industries, among many others. Welders of all types may be covered under such insurance policies, including those who use electrical arcs, thermite, and inert-gas to complete fabrication work. With adequate welding and fabrication insurance in place, the unique risks associated with welding operations are covered. Workplace injury claims can be reduced, but not eliminated, from modern construction and manufacturing practices. With comprehensive risk management systems that include insurance, manufacturing and fabrication companies and their employees can continue to provide their valuable services to consumers. ◼

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