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Why Welding Safety matters more than manufacturers may think

Editorial
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In order to complete a successful welding task, ensuring the safety of workers and managers on the worksite is a key component in the ever-changing welding industry.

Welding processes are usually classified into two groups: fusion welding, which is heat alone, and pressure welding, which uses a combination of heat and pressure. Fusion welding involves three types: electric arc, gas and thermit.

Arc welding is a safe occupation when sufficient measures are taken to protect the welder from potential hazards. When these measures are overlooked, welders can encounter such dangers as electric shock, overexposure to fumes and gases, arc radiation, and fire and explosion.

The TIG process produces a variety of hazards, not only to those carrying out the operation but also in many instances to others in the vicinity such as inspectors, labourers and even other welders. Some of the hazards encountered are specific to TIG welding while others are of a more general nature.

Different hazards occur before welding commences, during welding and sometimes after welding has finished.

All the potential hazards need to be identified, measured where appropriate, assessed, and remedial or preventative measures put in place wherever necessary. It should also be remembered that different hazards may have the same effect on the body and so interactions between hazards should also be considered.

All of these forms of welding produce visible smoke that contains harmful metal fume and gas by-products, OSHA states. Welding fumes contain a variety of metals, including aluminium, arsenic, beryllium, lead and manganese.

However, there are also concerns over public safety risks posed by uncompliant manufacturers and non-enforced fabricated steel.

Welding Technology Institute of Australia (WTIA) CEO Geoff Crittenden said that a WTIA-senior welding inspector’s report identified 10 separate items tested that were non-compliant, with problems including undersize, incomplete, and missing welds.

“About 85 per cent of important fabricated steel is non-compliant. My colleagues and I in the steel supply chain have provided details of dangerous structures, including a footbridge between two schools, to government agencies but our warnings have been ignored,” Crittenden said.

Earlier this year, Crittenden provided evidence to the State Economics References Committee’s inquiry into the future of Australia’s steel industry, highlighting that no law governs the inspection of fabricated steel to ensure it met Australian standards.

He recommended a two-tiered system with audited self-certification permitted for some fabricated products, and compulsory third party certification for fabricated steel used in high risk projects such as roads and rail infrastructure.

As welding’s peak body, WTIA could undertake the scheme, providing independent, qualified, third-party inspectors to ensure the safety of the welds at no added cost to the Federal Government.

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