Welding is a potentially hazardous activity and precautions are required to avoid:
- fire and explosion
- electric shock
- vision damage
- inhalation of poisonous gases and fumes
- exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation.
As the PCBU you must manage the risks associated with:
- using, handling, generating or storing of hazardous chemicals, including ensuring that hazardous chemicals are correctly labelled and that workers can access current Safety Data Sheets. Workers' health should also be monitored.
- electrical equipment, including ensuring that any unsafe electrical equipment is disconnected from its electricity supply
- ignition sources in hazardous atmospheres - flammable or combustible substances are to be kept at the lowest practicable quantity
- musculoskeletal disorders related to hazardous manual tasks
- working in confined spaces, including entering, working in, on or in the vicinity of a confined space (including a risk of a person inadvertently entering a confined space).
You should consider and implement control measures such as:
- installing non-flammable screens and partitions
- using signs to warn that welding is occurring - if welding is being carried out, entry into the work area is not permitted unless safeguards are used
- providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including filter shades for goggles, face shields to protect the eyes from radiation, and gloves and other protective clothing to cover exposed skin
- reducing exposure to fumes and gases.
You must ensure that:
- you provide any information, training, instruction and supervision necessary to protect all persons from risks (so far as is reasonably practicable)
- the information, training and instructions are suitable and adequate having regard to the nature of the work and the risks associated with the work
- the risk control measures, and the training and instruction being provided, are readily understandable
- no person is exposed to a substance or mixture in an airborne concentration that exceeds the exposure standard for the substance or mixture
- air monitoring is carried out to determine the airborne concentration of a substance or mixture to which an exposure standard applies
- work in extremes of heat or cold are able to be carried out without risk to health and safety
- noise levels do not exceed the exposure standards
- PPE is provided and selected by ensuring that the equipment is:
- suitable for the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work
- a suitable size
- fit and comfortable
- maintained, repaired or replaced when required and used or worn by the worker.
PCBUs conducting welding activities you should refer to Welding processes - Code of Practice.
Radiation hazards emitted from electric arc and laser welding have the potential to cause eye disorders and skin burns such as 'arc eye' or 'welder's flash'.
Radiation from laser welding is less obvious than from electric welding arcs, but both are serious hazards. Workers directly involved in welding processes are at the greatest risk but other workers could also be exposed to harmful radiation.
Gasses and fumes
Cylinders of compressed and liquefied gases contain large volumes under high pressure. Precautions need to be taken when storing, handling and using cylinders.
The hazards associated with compressed and liquefied gases include fire, explosion, toxicity, asphyxiation, oxidisation and uncontrolled release of pressure. Leaking gas is usually recognised by odour. However, oxygen is odourless and potentially more hazardous.
If you are a PCBU that carries out lead processes, you must provide information about the lead process to a person who is likely to be carrying out the lead process, before they are engaged, and before they commence carrying out the lead process.
Review of processes
Workplaces and work environments can change as new hazards are introduced or when current hazards are eliminated.
Therefore you should regularly review your welding processes, in consultation with your workers and the Code, to ensure they remain adequate and effective in managing associated risks.
Breathe freely in welding - Breathe Freely Australia