Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Physical Hazards

Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation

Electric arcs and gas flames produce ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation that can be harmful to the eyes and skin upon continued or repeated exposure. Ultraviolet rays can result in a "sunburn" to the eyes, which is painful and disabling, but usually only temporary. Exposed skin is also subject to sunburn and potential long term effects such as skin cancer. Sunburns are typically not noticed at the time of exposure, but rather at night. A sensation of having sand in the eyes, along with great discomfort, typically results in a trip to the emergency room where salve is prescribed. Ultraviolet rays are common in gas-shielded arc welding where the shielding gases can double the intensity of the radiation. Intensity can be 5 to 30 times greater where greater current densities are needed, as with covered electrode and gas-shielded metal arc welding.

Infrared radiation may cause permanent eye injury if the worker looks directly into a powerful arc without eye protection, or is in close proximity to the heat. Infrared radiation heats the tissue and can adversely affect exposed body parts.

Appropriate dress is the first consideration. As much of the body as possible should be covered with natural fiber clothing, such as cotton or wool. Long sleeve shirts buttoned at the neck (or the use of a bandana or high neckline shirt underneath), long pants, and closed-toed shoes should be worn underneath flame-retardant personal protective equipment. In order to avoid slag or sparks getting caught in creases and burning through clothing to the skin, follow these recommendations:

  • Shirt-tails should not be tucked into the pants.
  • Pants with a cuff should be avoided.
  • Leather workboots without shoe laces are recommended.
  • Welding caps to cover hair should be worn under the welding helmet when welding overhead.
  • Clothing should be dark to avoid reflection.

The proper selection and use of personal protective equipment is required for all personnel performing welding and cutting operations, such as:

  • Safety glasses
  • Welding/cutting goggles
  • Welding helmets with filtered lens
  • Flame-retardant sleeves, aprons, and chaps
  • Leather gauntlet style gloves

Compressed Gas Cylinders

Compressed gas cylinders may pose a variety of hazards if handled, used, stored, or transported in an unsafe manner. Personnel using welding/cutting gasses should attend Compressed Gas Cylinder Awareness level training so that hazards are understood and appropriate precautions are taken.

For more information on Compressed Gas Cylinders, click here.

Repetitive Motion

Repetitive motions and poorly designed workstations may result in worker fatigue and be the start of potentially larger injuries, especially in the wrists. The weight and design of the tools, the position of the work, and various other activities and factors such as lifting, turning, reaching, and vibration can all add up and result in stress to a particular body part. Pain, numbness, and burning sensations are all symptoms of a potential problem. Early detection is they key to recovery. For more information on ergonomic risks and consultation, click here.