Welding processes typically generate hazardous ultraviolet/ infrared radiation and (intense) visible light that have the potential to cause permanent eye damage. Physical eye hazards include welding spatter and grinding particles.
Each year in the US alone, more than $300 million is spent on costs associated with workplace eye injuries, including medical expenses, workers’ compensation, and lost production time.
Eye injuries account for one quarter of all welding injuries, making them by far the most common injury for welders, according to research from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.
Source: US National Safety Council’s Injury Facts, 2015
A well-designed welding helmet and filter can have a positive influence on the protection of your face and eyes from heat, spatter and radiation. Put simply, auto-darkening welding filters allow welders to keep their welding helmet in place much more often than passive welding filters.
If you can see well, the motivation to constantly lift your shield is significantly reduced, meaning:
Foreign body eye injuries decreased over 70% year-on-year in areas that implemented the 3M™ Adflo™ Powered Air Purifying Respiratory Protection (PAPR) Systems
When Environmental Health & Safety Director, Russ Lazzell, came on board at FreightCar in 2012, he discovered what he thought was a higher than normal number of eye injuries.
Further investigation found that many of the eye injuries were caused by foreign bodies, and not the result of direct impacts during the working process. High eye injury rates often result in higher worker compensation claims and lost time costs from worker treatment and recovery off the job.
Inadequate respiratory protection is the 4th most frequetnly cited workplace violation.
Source: Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, for 2015.
Fabricated metal product manufacturing ranks first in OSHA respiratory protection citations.
Welding creates a mixture of respirable gases and/or fumes (particles). To address these hazards and risks, it is best practice to use a hierarchy of controls. The idea is that the highest priority items on the hierarchy not only do the most to reduce fumes and worker exposure, but that they also put the least burden of responsibility on the welder. However, every welding fume control has its limitations:
1. Modify or substitute your welding process to other processes that generate less fumes and/or eliminate the most toxic contaminants. Control Limitations: Substitutions may not be possible. For example, when the end-product requires stainless steel (chromium).
2. Engineering controls include modifying enclosures around the welder, or the general ventilation of the workshop, or local exhaust controls. Control Limitations; Ventilation can be difficult to achieve due to conflicting needs, for instance heating/cooling or shielding gases.
3. Work practices include having the welder keep their head out of the plume. Control Limitations: Space-restricted workpieces or the welding situation may not allow alternative placement of the welder’s head.
4. Personal respiratory equipment. If steps 1 through 3 do not reduce exposure enough, respiratory protection for the welder may be needed. Control Limitations: When respirators are required, companies must establish a respiratory protection program that includes selection of respirators and their filters, training and maintenance.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 37.5 million (15%) Americans age 18 and older report some degree of hearing loss, and it is estimated that 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have a hearing loss due to noise exposure.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that for people working in the Manufacturing Sector, occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational health issue. Since 2004, nearly 258,500 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss.
Five minutes of carelessness per day significantly reduces the effect of the protection
That’s right: if you’re in a harmfully loud workplace – at or above 85 decibels – then not having your ear protection in place just 10% of the time offers you virtually no protection. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by the damage and eventual death of the ear’s hair cells. Unlike some other cells, human ear hair cells never grow back.
Heat stress can be a major concern in workplace environments potentially causing irritability, low morale, absenteeism, short cuts in procedures and unsafe behavior. In extreme cases heat stress, in the form of heat stroke, can be fatal.
Excessive exposure to heat can seriously impact worker health, safety and productivity. Accurate measurement of environmental conditions along with use of PPE that can minimize or reduce worker heat load can help reduce the risk of heat strain.
"Are falls a concern to you or your workers? Do you regularly inspect walking-working surfaces, correct and guard against hazardous conditions? Are you committed to a safe working environment at your company?
Keeping current with legal changes is a necessary first step. In November of 2016, OSHA published its final rule on Walking and Working Surfaces, updating the existing standard. These new updates apply to all general industry workplaces, covering surfaces like floors, stairs, ladders, ramps, scaffolds and elevated walkways. This final rule also covers a wide variety of general industries, and although it does not change current agricultural or construction standards, these new standards are meant to more closely align with modern construction requirements.
For instance, falls from any height can cause traumatic injury. Understanding how to comply with these new standards is key to protecting your employees and achieving compliance, helping to avoid penalties and, more importantly, tragedy.