Don’t Get Burned!


May 1, 2008

Keep a cool head and follow these safety tips when
performing hot work.

Each year, welding and cutting operations yield
many of the reported accidents at aggregate mines. Potential health and
safety hazards result from sparks, hot metal and radiant energy, and the
fumes and gases produced during this work. Equipment may generate high
voltages or use compressed gas, and thus, require special awareness and

To safeguard workers, pay attention to the
following items.

  • Slag: Injuries caused by burns during
    welding and cutting operations result when slag, the hot metal byproduct
    of the processes, lands on workers. Ears are primary targets, but
    unprotected skin in other body areas such as between sleeves and gloves
    and between pants and boots can also be hurt when they come in contact
    with hot surfaces or hot loose metal. Slag may fly, fall, drip, or ooze
    as work is executed.

  • Intense heat: Unexpected and irregular
    flash or arc burns can hurt exposed skin. The harm and pain from these
    burns usually worsens throughout time.

  • Intense light: Bright flashes of
    ultraviolet light cannot only burn skin, but also the lens of the eye.
    Damage may occur instantly or gradually throughout time if protective
    eyewear is not worn and if it is not appropriate for the intensity of
    the light.

  • Inadequate preparation: If metal
    objects being welded or cut have not been properly aligned and secured
    before work begins, they may slip, cutting or pinching workers as they
    try to make adjustments as they work.

  • Harmful fumes: Burning metal and
    metal-bearing materials, especially those containing lead or cadmium,
    may release highly toxic chemicals into the air. Employers must check
    that ventilation is adequate in work areas before any welding or cutting
    begins. Mechanical ventilation or individual respirators will work in an
    area that may be in a confined space cut off from natural ventilation.

  • Electric shock: Any electric welder can
    cause electrocution if the electrode touches exposed skin while the
    worker is grounded. Shock can cause involuntary muscular contractions
    and even death.

Best practices

Employers are responsible for providing a safe work
environment and educating workers on safe work procedures. This means
that workers must receive basic training for the job at hand and be
informed of all safety and health hazards involved. Equipment must be
inspected regularly to ensure that it is adequately maintained and safe
to operate. Workers must be required to wear appropriate personal
protective equipment, and the work area must be safe. Fire extinguishers
must be handy, and the area must be properly ventilated.

Wearing the right personal protective equipment is
the most important precaution for workers who are welding and cutting.
Clothing should be made of heavier cloth such as wool or heavy cotton.
Welder’s jackets provide excellent protection for the upper body.
Sleeves should be unrolled and collars should be buttoned. Shirts should
not have front pockets so that sparks cannot lodge in these areas and
cause burns. Pants should not have cuffs or be turned up for same
reason, and frayed clothes, which are susceptible to catching fire and
burning, should not be worn. Workers should wear appropriate
flame-resistant gloves, aprons, shields, or leggings, leather capes, and
sleeves, as necessary. They should also use helmets with filter lenses
to protect them from arc rays as well as sparks and spatter. Spectacles
with side shields or goggles will protect against slag chips, grinding
fragments, wire wheel bristles, and similar hazards.

Information contained in this article was provided
through the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance and was written cooperatively by members
of both the aggregates industry and the regulatory agency.

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