Welding and Cutting Torch Safety


Summary:

Summary: You can't earn a welding or cutting safety certification by reading a website. This site is for information only and does not certify or quality any persons in the use of oxy-acetylene or arc welding and cutting. For the proper use of any equipment, please contact the supplier or manufacturer of your equipment.

If handling an oxy-acetylene torch, know that if you do not follow safety guidelines, it is the same as handling an explosive. Oxygen in particular supports the burning process when combined with other gasses.  When it comes in contact with oil or grease it is flammable and potentially explosive.

  • Always make sure the torch and other equipment is in good repair.
  • Stop welding or cutting if you sense something isn't working correctly.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand and be prepared for injuries. Learn how to handle wounds and bleeding.
  • Call 911 if injuries such as electric shock (do not touch person since you can become part of the circuit) or if they are suffering from gas inhalation move to clean air and then call for help.
  • Beware of plume poisoning risk . This occurs when a work area isn't well ventilated or if you are not wearing a ventilator. Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to see what type of equipment is required for the metal being welded and process being used.

For torches that use electricity, there is a risk of electric shock. Arc welding uses electricity referred to as AC or DC. A shock from an ordinary outlet is 120 volts which can cause injure or kill a person. Higher current can create more risk. AC is more hazardous than DC, although both can cause injury or death. AC is more likely to stop the heart.

Do not use any welding equipment until you have read and understand the manufacturers recommended safety instructions.

Oxyfuel Torch Diagram

There must always be two o-rings on the cone end of the oxyacetylene torch. The absence or if either o-ring is damaged, it allows a premixing and leaks of oxygen and fuel gasses. This can lead to flashback within the torch handle.

Important Torch Safety Information

This information teaches theory only and is not a substitute for hands on Torch Safety training.

  • Always use the correct term, air is NOT oxygen, gas is NOT acetylene. Acetylene is extremely explosive with air or oxygen. 
  • Never use oxygen for compressed air.
  • Serious injuries or death can be caused by confusing terminology and using fuels and gasses incorrectly.
  • Never alter equipment, always refer to equipment manuals for proper use.
  • Use an oil free leak testing solution any time a bottle or fittings are changed or if a leak is suspected. (do not spray inside of regulators or fittings) Spray solution on fitting, it will bubble if a leak is present.
  • Purge (removal of unwanted fuel/gas) all hoses to allow them to exhaust any foreign gasses.
  • Tanks should be professionally cleaned before cutting starts. Even an empty tank is empty it can hold explosive fumes for years.
  • Use a flint lighter or stationary pilot light to light the torch, torch, never use a butane lighter, match, or any other spark source. (butane lighters are essentially a bomb in your pocket waiting for a spark)
  • Never carry lighters, matches or any fire sources in your pocket.
  • Defective equipment should be reported to the supervisor immediately. Defective equipment should be sent to the manufacturer to be repaired.
  • Gasses and fuels must be purchased from a qualified company, NEVER attempt to mix or produce gasses.
  • Torch cutting produces infrared light, visible light and high temperatures. All three of these are harmful to the user.
  • Torch Safety is the most important rule. Refer to equipment manuals for guidelines and receive proper training from a qualified person before attempting any welding or cutting process.
  • Never open oxyacetylene valve more than 1-1/2 turns.
  • Acetyene bottles should be emptied at a rate of 1/7th capacity per hour or less.
  • When lighting the torch keep the tip facing in a safe direction. Have your welding goggles in position.

Oxyfuel Torch Safety

Oxyfuel Torch Diagram

The oxyfuel torch shown above is teh handle for holding and controlling the welding or cutting system.
  • The torch valves should be hand secured, not tightened.
  • The valve stem packing should be tightened if gasses leak past or when the torch valve becomes too easy to turn.
  • Torch safety codes require that they have flashback arresters and check valves. (relatively new code). Older torches will not have flashback arresters or check valves.  If your torch does not have them, add them into the line between the torch and the regulator.
  • Tips require periodic cleaning. A dirty tip will have a forked outer envelope.  Use a tip cleaner.

Flashback Arrestor (left) and Check Valves (right) for Torch Safety

Arc Welding Torch Safety

The type of electrical shock that could be received when operating a torch is called a secondary electric shock. It occurs when you touch a part of the welding circuit, such as a bare spot on a cable at the same time you are touching the material being welded.

The voltage is highest at the electrode when you are not welding and is called open circuit voltage.

Secondary Electric Shock Video

Clothing Safety

  • Gloves should be heavy leather and made for cutting and welding.
  • Safety glasses must be ANSI approved and have side guards.
  • A #4 full face shield protects the face from sparks and infrared heat exposure.
  • Leather shoes(no nylon or plastic) must cover all skin. Steel toes offer drop protection.
  • Ear plugs protect from noise and flying sparks.
  • Protective clothing should cover ALL skin. Leather or heat treated cotton are best.
  • Frayed jeans are a fire hazard.
  • NEVER wear plastic or nylon materials near sparks.

Ventilation

Welding Fume and Ventilation

One part of torch safety is to always work in a well ventilated area.

Use a respirator AND forced ventilation if cutting on toxic coated metals. (Galvanized and painted materials, etc..) or ANY material which you are unsure of.

Proper ventilation is essential for Torch Safety in ALL welding/cutting processes. Forced (fan blowing fumes away) or direct draw (vacuum drawing flames away) ventilation is best.

Work Area Safety

  • Keep area clear of ALL flammable items, rags, paper, wood, or any item that will burn.
  • Be aware of potentials for fire,post a fire watch with extinguisher if anything area could start on fire.
  • A fire watch should stay in the area at least 30 minutes after work is complete.
  • Keep hoses clear of the spark and slag path.
  • Keep bottles clear of the spark and slag path.
  • Although ventilation is important, it is more important that the head be kept out of the fume plume. Smoke should move away from the head at all times.
  • Various fuels may be used in the Oxy-fuel cutting process. Acetylene which is used for welding, brazing, cutting and heating is the most common and has a neutral flame approx. 5600 deg. F.
  • Never move cylinders without caps.
  • Always secure cylinders.

Shut Down Procedures for Oxy-acetylene Systems

  • Turn off acetylene needle valve
  • Turn off preheat oxygen needle valve
  • Turn off tanks
  • Bleed lines one at a time
  • Turn adjusting screws out
  • Turn off all needle valves

Torch Backfire and Flashback

  • Backfire: occurs when the torch goes out while making a loud popping sound. It is caused by hot metal in the tip. The gasses rapidly combust inside the tip and cause a burst of high pressure.

    When it occurs, stop and inspect the tip and clean if necessary.
  • Flashback: This is a potentially serious condition.  It occurs when the flame burns inside the torch. It is usually accompanied by a shrill hissing or squealing sound. May generate a puff of black smoke from the tip.

    The potential harm of flashbacks and backfires is controlled through the use of check valves and flashback arrestors.

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