How to remain healthy while pursuing a career in welding
Staying safe while welding is very important because the job carries a lot of health hazards for the worker. Whether you are doing it as a hobby or a profession, the multitude of health risks it carries should keep the welder on its toes in ensuring that he remains protected from these potential medical conditions.
One of the greatest health investments you can ever make as a welder is to get yourself the best welding helmet you can afford as this will protect your eyes, your face, as well as respiratory functions from dangerous light and chemicals that you will get exposed to everyday.
So what are the health hazards involved in the job?
- Respiratory diseases. Tiny metal particles as well as toxic gases and fumes are among the daily hazards that a welder faces. Inhaling these chemicals do not only cause simple allergy attacks, cough and headaches. These also cause long-term health concerns such as pneumonia, asthma, other pulmonary illnesses, and even dreaded diseases like cancer.
- Eye Injuries. Eye injuries are fairly common for welders. This is usually caused by irritation from chemicals and fumes, tiny metal particles getting in the eye during the welding process, radiation, and light exposure. Harmful exposure to radiation may also cause cataracts in the long run, as well as damage to the retina.
- Burns. Molten metal, welding equipment, as well as other welding materials may pose risks of burning the welder’s skin especially if he fails to take necessary precautions. These very hot surfaces will surely damage the skin when an accident occurs.
- Skin Diseases. Exposure to dirt, dust and chemicals may take a toll on a welder’s skin. Long-term exposure to UV Radiation may also lead to Skin Cancer.
- Hearing problems. The loud noise generated by the welding process is bound to take a toll on the welder’s ears in the years to come. The negative impact that it has on the welder’s hearing is very likely to compound over time, affecting the welder’s hearing. The chemicals and fumes inhaled by the welder may also hurt the auditory nerves and eventually affect the welder’s auditory system.
- Back Injuries and Pain. Repetitive movements, wrong way of lifting heavy objects, and a bad posture cause back pains and injuries. These take place when the welder is not being conscious about regularly changing welding positions while doing his job, or by lifting objects by bending from the waist, instead of bending from the knees.
- Lack of Oxygen. Working in a poorly-ventilated area may reduce oxygen, and could lead to asphyxiation.
Although these health risks may seem overwhelming, the good news is most of these are preventable. For instance proper use of Personal Protective Equipment or PPEs drastically reduce your risk of contracting these illnesses.
Making sure that you are using the right helmet and eye protection could help you veer away from dangerous eye injuries and conditions that could be brought about by welding. Wearing the right respiratory apparatus will likewise help ensure that you do not get to inhale tiny particles that pose harm to your lungs. These masks also help in greatly reducing the fumes and chemicals you get to inhale while working.
Protective clothing will also ensure that you do not get burned, and your body remains protected from sparks, heat, and other harmful chemicals in your work environment.
Using PPEs however do not provide a blanket assurance that you will be protected from these health risks. You should likewise be able to do your part in ensuring that your PPE remains efficient in protecting you. How do you ensure that it continues to effectively protect you? Here are some ways:
- Make sure that you know how to use the PPE properly. The PPE is useless if it is misused. Make sure that you know how to wear it properly, and make sure it fits you well. Read the manual, and follow the usage guidelines indicated there.
- Regularly clean your PPE. Make sure that the PPE stays clean because dust and dirt could affect its performance. Lenses used in welding helmets for instance should be cleaned inside and out to remove tiny foreign particles that may have stuck on it.
- Inspect your PPE Regularly. This way you can see if there is damage that could hinder it from protecting you from the hazards of welding.
- Regularly replace parts that needs to be changed. In the case of welding helmets this may mean lenses and sweatbands. For respiratory masks this may mean filters. Gloves should be changed regularly too, and so should protective shoes and clothing.
To further avoid health hazards, you should also make yourself healthier by taking nutritious meals, vitamin supplements, and taking adequate rest periods. These healthy practices protect your body as well from the daily occupational hazards that you face. Being conscious about your posture, and changing positions from time to time will also help avoid back, neck, and shoulder problems.
You may also want to read on latest industry news which may include techniques that will help you remain healthy on the job. Stay in touch as well with your occupational Safety Department to know if they will be implementing new company guidelines that could help protect you from health risks in your workplace.
You may also want to get bi-annual medical check-up instead of just the annual company check-up to stay on top of your health. Immediately consult your doctor as well when you are unusually feeling sick or if you think you are showing signs of having any of the diseases mentioned earlier. This way you can seek medical intervention that could help prevent the worsening of a medical condition. You may also want to become a member of industry organizations so that you could attend seminars, as well as share experiences and safety practices with fellow welders.