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SME owners & welders

What you need to do

Fume and gases from welding and cutting

For further information see health topics. 3 video presentations offering tips on positioning of flexible extraction hoods can be found in the videos page. Task Specific COSHH guidance for welding cutting and allied jobs provide simple advice for some common welding processes. HSE’s Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) pages offer further general guidance.

Preventing fire and explosion

Clear away wood, fabric, cardboard and other flammable material before starting the job. Remember that the heat, sparks, drips of metal and slag can travel a considerable distance and can start fires in adjacent rooms.

You may need a person to act as a fire watcher. They should remain on watch for at least 30 minutes after the hot work finishes.

For further information see the Welding - Preventing fire and explosion pages and the free leaflet Safety in gas welding, cutting and similar processes INDG297. For general information see the HSE fire and explosion pages.

Hot work on tanks and drums may have had flammable liquids in them

Empty and clean the inside of them. Free HSE guidance Hot work on Drums and Tanks gives a simple description of the safe way to do this work.

Got acetylene in the back of your van?

Close the tank valve when you’re not using it. It’s the best way to prevent gas leaks.

For further information see the Welding - Preventing fire and explosion pages and the free leaflet Safety in gas welding, cutting and similar processes INDG297. For general information see the HSE fire and explosion pages.

Lack of oxygen in confined spaces

Use of inert gases and some common chemical reactions (eg rusting) can reduce the amount of oxygen inside enclosed spaces such as tanks, pipes and pits.
Working in these locations is dangerous. Before you enter a confined space:

For further information see the HSE confined spaces webpage. The publication Safe maintenance, repair and cleaning procedures - L137  has details on permit to work systems.

Noise and vibration

TIG is a relatively quiet arc welding process and does not normally generate harmful levels of noise. The other electric arc welding processes (flux core, MMA, MAG, etc) do generate harmful levels of noise. In addition the other tasks that a welder will typically do are also noisy and typically the environment that welding takes place is also noisy. This means you will  have to consider ways to reduce noise levels as far as possible and control any residual risk through use of ear plugs or ear muffs.

Welding and cutting processes do not generally generate harmful levels of vibration. However tasks using powered hand tools such as grinding and needle scaling will expose you to harmful vibration.

Both noise and vibration are time dependant hazards. The less time you are exposed to them the less damage it can do. Remember that workers around you who are doing noisy work will also contribute to your noise exposure.

For further information see the noise and vibration page or the generic HSE noise and vibration webpages.

Electric shock

Welding with the head in the rising plume of welding fume = increased risk (Illustration)

Welding with the head in the rising plume of welding fume = increased risk

Welding with the head slightly out the rising plume of welding fume = decreased risk (Illustration)

Welding with the head slightly out the rising plume of welding fume = decreased risk

Welding with the head slightly out the rising plume of welding fume = decreased risk (Photograph)

For further information see the welding electrical hazards section. For general guidance and information, the HSE electrical safety pages.

On-site and offshore welders

Unlike factory welders, the onsite welders will face highly variable circumstances and conditions. As a result the health and safety measures you need to take may also change frequently. Much of the risks that an on-site welder will face are the same as other industrial workers (eg working at height, lifting and slinging, manual handling).

Updated 2013-01-29