Welding in Confined Spaces: What You Need to Know?

Welding in Confined Spaces: What You Need to Know?

Sep 28, 2021, 5:31:54 AM Tech and Science

Welding is a process that joins materials by using heat and melting them together. Now, since this process depends on heat (burning) it consumes incredible amounts of oxygen. This is what makes welding in confined spaces so dangerous. The oxygen supply is already limited and when you start welding, things might get somewhat complicated.

The thing is that there are a lot of scenarios in which this will actually be necessary. For instance, tanks, manholes, ventilation ducts, ship compartments, silos, etc. may all require work that involves welding. Needless to say, this process requires special training. Here are some things you need to know about it.

What is a confined space?

While the term confined space may seem quite self-explanatory, in terms of OSHA regulations, this is something that needs to be clearly defined. The confined space has a limited means of entry and exit. It is also not made for continuous occupancy.

There’s also a sub-type of a confined space – permit-required confined space. This is the area that contains the material that could potentially engulf the user. The second characteristic is that they could converge inward (potentially creating the space that could trap the entrant). Lastly, it may contain safety or health hazards in terms of live wires or unguarded machinery.

It goes without saying that it’s clear why welding may be both necessary and dangerous in these areas.

Potential hazards

The next issue worth addressing is the issue of potential hazards of welding in confined spaces. Seeing as how conditions here are vastly different, the outcomes can be quite different, as well. For instance, in the absence of proper ventilation, a plasma cutter can cause burns to one’s lungs.

Lack of oxygen (due to welding) may lead to dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Keep in mind that welding releases all sorts of toxic gases (like argon) which you shouldn’t be exposed to for a prolonged period of time. Keep in mind that electrocutions, radiation, etc. are additional points of hazard.

At the end of the day, just wielding the welding device can be quite difficult here, seeing as how the confined space may affect your posture. Also, you might not have the stable material to stand on.

Proper training

So, how can you be more careful when it comes to welding in confined spaces. Sure, you’re aware of the risks and it’s not like anyone would endanger their lives on purpose? Unfortunately, some industries can’t function without welding in confined spaces, which seemingly puts us at an impasse.

The problem is even bigger since a lot of people fail to understand that just working in a confined space (even without welding) is quite difficult. Fortunately, according to experts in confined space training from Newcastle, the course itself takes between 1 and 3 days. In other words, you first need to learn how to act in confined spaces, and only then should you add welding as a part of the equation to the mix.

How to be extra careful

There are several tips you need to know before you decide to start welding in confined spaces. First of all, keep the area clean and make sure that the electrical source is properly labeled and identified. Always have an exit strategy and make sure that the exit route is clear. Access to clean air is pivotal and one of the ways to ensure it’s not a problem is to get a welding helmet with a PAPR (powered air-purifying respiratory unit).

During the beak or when not in use, everything causing gas emissions needs to be halted. It is also a good idea to have a dedicated supervisor and someone who has undergone a confined space rescue training.

In conclusion

Welding in confined paces is by no means impossible. It’s just less practical, more complex, and more dangerous. This is why proper PPE, proper training, and being careful is more important than ever. It is also why you need to increase your efforts in terms of monitoring, emergency evacuation, and rescue under these conditions. Knowing there’s a trap is a first step in avoiding it but being proactive and taking all the necessary measures is just as important. When it comes to the safety of you and your staff/coworkers, there’s no such thing as being too careful.

Published by Zac Walker

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