Welding is a common skill for individuals involved in the metalworking profession, but it is also a fun pastime for those who like to do projects around their home or get involved in industrial art experiences. It is one of the more dangerous professions and hobbies to exist.
Regardless of the type of welder you are, every time you operate a welding machine, you face a variety of potential hazards that can lead to serious injuries as well as death. The most common types of injuries that welders experience include:
- Burns: Burn injuries are the most common type of welding injury. They are usually caused when a welder does not wear the proper personal protective equipment, such as non-melting and flame-resistant protective shirts, pants, coats, aprons, hats, helmets, gloves, shoes, and more. Without the proper apparel, a welder may suffer first-degree, second-degree, and even third-degree burns that may lead to life-threatening consequences for many years to come.
- Electrical shocks: When a welder is in the middle of welding a product and two metal parts with an electrical circuit or voltage between them touch together, this can cause an electrical shock. A secondary voltage shock can also happen when the welder touches the metal part that they are welding at the same as the electrical circuit. This may lead to 20 to 100 volts passing through the body, which can cause a severe or deadly situation to occur. While you may think that 20 to 100 volts is not a lot, people have died when shocked with 42 volts. That said, if the welder survives, they will most likely suffer severe injuries from the shock itself or from falling due to the shock.
- Hearing issues from loud sounds: Welding is a very loud process. Therefore, when a person is welding, they will be subject to loud and excessive sounds. Most welders can expect the noise to be between 90 to 100 decibels (dB). This will eventually negatively impact their hearing as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “noise over 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.”
- Explosion and fire injuries: Most welders know that the temperature in the room will start to rise from welding. It is a hot and sweaty job due to the extreme temperatures caused by the welding arcs. In fact, arc welding develops heat that is around 6500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is used to melt the metal between two different pieces.
When you are in the process of welding, you may notice sparks at some point, which are known to reach over 30 feet away. This is extremely dangerous because flammable products that are within 30 feet become at risk of catching fire or exploding, which can cause serious injuries. Some of the products you should keep over 30 feet away from your work area include paint, wood, oil, propane, gasoline, paper, hydrogen, and more.
- Toxic exposure: The fumes and gasses that welding produces are made of metal oxide compounds. These are very dangerous to individuals’ health. Exposure to these types of gasses and fumes can lead to severe irritation and injuries in the throat, nose, eyes, and mouth. It can also cause other side effects such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, kidney and lung damage, and stomach ulcers. Cancer diagnoses are very common among welders who have inhaled gasses and fumes for long periods of time. The most common cancer diagnoses include lung cancer, urinary tract cancer, kidney cancer, and larynx cancer. Therefore, when welding, it is highly recommended to have proper ventilation in the room, such as fans, respirators, and exhaust systems.
- Vision loss/eye damage: Welders often suffer various eye problems due to the sparks and flying debris going through the air. Radiation is also another common concern for welders as it can cause many different eye injuries to occur when emitted. As a matter of fact, the National Center for Biotechnology Information mentions that the most common eye injury that occurs from welding is photokeratitis, which is known as “welder’s eye.” The symptoms of this eye condition include decreased vision, pain, red eyes, and eye discomfort. Most people who are diagnosed with “welder’s eye” have long-term damage to their eye.
What happens if I suffer an injury on a job site?
If you are employed by a company, you can seek workers’ compensation. But if you are a contractor, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit if someone else’s negligence caused you harm. (This is true even if your injuries were the result of something unrelated to welding, such as a fall or a vehicle accident.)
When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Oklahoma, you can seek damages for:
- Medical expenses, including future medical needs
- Lost wages (arm pay, truck page, and per diem, if applicable) and loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering, including emotional/mental trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Property damages
Tips to avoid welding injuries
If you’re just starting out in the industry, there are a few steps you can take to help protect yourself. They include:
- Inspect your welder and make sure that it is fully functional and has no problems every time you begin a welding project.
- Make sure that you are working in completely dry conditions. You do not want to be in a wet or damp area while welding.
- Do not work in a confined area. Make sure the area is open and has proper ventilation.
- Finish all your training before you accept a job, and don’t allow untrained workers to use your rig.
- Always wear protective equipment on your body, head, and eyes to prevent any injuries from occurring.
- Keep your work area clean and hazard-free. The last thing you want is for your workspace to become cluttered and cause a fire or explosion.
- Ensure that a fire extinguisher is always nearby when you are welding. If you do not have a fire extinguisher, you need access to a water hose, baking soda, salt, or a bucket of sand.
The Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers at Cunningham & Mears help victims of welding accidents. Our team knows and understands that these types of injuries can change your life in many ways, which is why we are here to guide you through the process and ensure that you get the fair compensation that you are owed. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation in Oklahoma City.
Marcus P. Mears is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Mears is committed to helping Oklahoma’s injured victims in the areas of injury law and insurance litigation. Mr. Mears was selected to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his work as lead counsel in multiple seven figure injury cases. Learn More