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The Importance of Welding Safety

The "comfort zone" is where you become complacent about welding safety. It's easy to get in that zone whether you are a beginning welder acquiring new skills, or a seasoned journeyman. I equate the comfort zone to daydreaming. You ALWAYS have to be aware of your surroundings!

Welding safety guidelines demand that you are educating yourself and fellow workers, staying alert, and using common sense. Welding safety is like riding a motorcycle, if you don't respect that motorcycle; you are going to get an "asphalt suntan" or worse. If you don't respect welding safety rules, you or your fellow workers can be hurt, maimed, or fatally injured.

You always have to look after yourself AND the other guy. I've been hurt a couple of times pretty badly, and BOTH times was because of the other guy doing something wrong! Just because you have good welding safety practices, that doesn't mean the other workers do.

I was working at General Motors a few years ago with a really good hand named Bobby. We had a lot in common and worked really well together. Before one of us needed something, the other would already be doing it; such as one of us having a tool ready before the other could even ask. We were a good team, and we both had years of welding safety practice and education.

One day we made a mistake that could have really cost us. We had to cut out and reposition a bracket underneath a conveyor system where car bodies were transported. To get to it one of us had to crawl underneath, and get right in the middle of the bottom part of the conveyor. There was hardly any clearance and we literally had to thread ourselves up under that thing. Then one of us would cut the bracket loose, reposition and hold it so it could be tacked and welded in the new position.

The welding safety inspector for the plant pulled up and began to tell us how stupid we were, how we could have gotten killed, how we could have cost him his job all the while throwing in about 500 curse words. He was not a happy man, and after we realized what he was talking about we understood why he was so upset.

For some reason we had "figured" the line we were working on was "locked out /tagged out." Welding safety rules demand any electrical component, line, system you are working on has to be shut down and locked. On the lock should be a tag stating it is not to be started for any reason. The first thing we should have done was to make sure it was locked/tagged out, but for some reason that day neither one of us thought about it. Had that system been accidentally turned on, one of us would have watched the other die a horrible death, there was no way to get out of there in time.

It was a sobering experience, and unfortunately one that is going to happen every now and then because we are human, and are going to make mistakes. What we must do as employees and employers is learn from those mistakes and stay as educated in safety as possible. Along with complying with all the welding safety standards, it doesn't hurt to have a guardian angel looking on either!


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