The first consideration for safety in welding is the location and peculiarities of the space in which the welding operation is to be performed.
Weld or cut only in locations specifically designated for this purpose unless you have obtained approval of the job and have taken the necessary precautions to eliminate fire and explosion hazards.
Do not weld in any location outside the shop unless you take the necessary precautions and get authorization. Before you weld in any compartment, room, tank, or adjacent space which contains or which has contained flammable or explosive materials, liquids, or vapors, make sure they are:
- made safe,
- tested, and
- proclaimed safe.
These restrictions also apply to closed drums, tanks, and similar containers.
Do not permit welding or cutting in the following situations:
- in areas not authorized by management
- in sprinklered buildings while such protection is impaired
- in the presence of explosive atmospheres (mixtures of flammable gases, vapors, liquids, or dust with air)
- inside uncleaned or improperly prepared tanks or equipment which have previously contained such explosive atmospheres or have the potential for explosive atmospheres
- in areas with an accumulation of combustible dust
- in areas near the storage of large quantities of exposed, readily ignitable materials such as bulk sulfur, baled paper, or cotton.
An important component of welding safety is a Fire Prevention Plan, learn more here
Basic Precautions for Fire Prevention
Combustible material: Wherever there are floor openings or cracks in the flooring that you cannot close, you should take precautions so no readily combustible materials on the floor below is exposed to sparks that might drop through the floor. Use the same precautions for cracks or holes in walls, open doorways and open or broken windows.
Combustible covers: Never weld on a metal partition, wall, ceiling or roof having a combustible covering nor on walls or partitions of combustible sandwich-type panel construction.
Relocation of combustibles: If possible, relocate all combustibles at least 35 feet (10.7 m) from the work site. When relocation is not possible:
- protect combustibles with flame-proofed covers, or
- shield combustibles with metal or asbestos guards or curtains.
Floors: Where combustible materials such as paper clippings, wood shavings, or textile fibers are on the floor, sweep the floor clean within a radius of 35 feet (10.7 m). In addition:
- If floors are combustible, keep them wet, covered with damp sand, or protected by fire-resistant shields.
- Protect workers operating arc welding or cutting equipment from shock where floors have been wet down.
Ducts: Protect or shut down ducts and conveyor systems that might carry sparks to distant combustibles.
Combustible walls: Where cutting or welding is done near walls, partitions, ceiling or roof of combustible construction, provide fire-resistant shields or guards to prevent ignition.
Non-combustible walls: If you need to do welding on a metal wall, partition, ceiling or roof, prevent ignition of combustibles on the other side, preferably by relocating combustibles. Where you are not able to relocate the combustibles, be sure to provide a fire watch on the opposite side from the work.
Pipes: Do not cut or weld on pipes or other metal in contact with combustible walls, partitions, ceilings or roofs if the work is close enough to cause ignition by conduction.
Fire extinguishers: Position suitable fire extinguishing equipment and maintain it in a state of readiness for instant use. Depending on the nature and quantity of the combustible material, fire-extinguishing equipment may consist of:
- pails of water,
- buckets of sand,
- hoses, or
- portable extinguishers.
Hot work is any work that involves burning, welding, using fire- or spark-producing tools or that produces a source of ignition. Follow these general best practices below for hot work.
- Do not perform hot work where flammable vapors or combustible materials exist.
- Relocate work and equipment outside of the hazardous areas, when possible.
- Make suitable fire-extinguishing equipment immediately available in a state of readiness. The equipment may consist of pails of water, buckets of sand, hose, or portable extinguishers dependent upon the nature and quantity of the combustible material exposed.
- When performing hot work, assign a fire watch to guard.
A worker designated as the “Fire Watch” is required whenever welding or cutting is performed in locations where other than a minor fire might develop, or any of the following conditions exist:
- Appreciable combustible material, in building construction or contents, closer than 35 feet (10.7 m) to the point of operation.
- Appreciable combustibles are more than 35 feet (10.7 m) away but are easily ignited by sparks.
- Wall or floor openings within a 35-foot (10.7 m) radius expose combustible material in adjacent areas including concealed spaces in walls or floors.
- Combustible materials are adjacent to the opposite side of metal partitions, walls, ceilings, or roofs and are likely to be ignited by conduction or radiation.
The duties of a qualified fire watch include:
- They must have fire-extinguishing equipment readily available.
- Train them in how to use fire-extinguishing equipment.
- They must be familiar with facilities for sounding an alarm in the event of fire.
- They must watch for fires in all exposed areas, try to extinguish them only when obviously within the capacity of the equipment available, or otherwise sound the alarm.
- They must maintain a fire watch for at least a half hour after completion of welding or cutting operations to detect and extinguish possible smoldering fires.
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