Welding/Brazing/Cutting (Torch) Accidents
Welding is one of the most hazardous occupations in construction. Welders and those who conduct welding-related functions (brazing, cutting and soldering) comprise approximately 10 percent of the construction workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
These 2 million workers, who often work closely with extreme heat, heavy tools and sometimes dangerous chemicals and gases, are prone to serious injury – particularly burns, eye injuries and serious long-term damage to lungs, nerves and the brain.
Construction injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know the work environment of most welders is difficult. They often work outdoors, sometimes in inclement weather, or indoors, often in confined spaces. They sometimes must work on scaffolding high off the ground, and at times lift heavy objects or work in awkward positions.
These factors may exacerbate risk of injury. Still in most cases, welding injuries are preventable, and ultimately, all construction workers have the right to a safe workplace.Why Welding Accidents Occur
Understanding the causes of welding accidents requires us first to understand the basics of welding and related processes.
- Welding. A process that involves joining two or more pieces of metal together to form a single piece. Usually, this is completed with an intense heat source, like oxygen-plus-fuel, or with an electrical arc.
- Cutting. This is process that involves severing or separating two pieces of metal through the use of intense heat in order to melt the metal.
- Brazing. This is a process similar to welding, and involves the use of hot liquid metal filler to join two or more metal surfaces.
- Soldering. Similar to welding, but typically done at a lower temperature and on smaller components involving “softer” metals, such as silver or tin.
There are some industries, such as automobile manufacturing, where welding is largely automated and workers aren’t exposed to as many hazards. But welders who work on construction sites rarely if ever use machines that are automated. This means building owners, contractors, and workers must take special precautions in order to prevent injury.
Worker fatigue is often a significant problem. The BLS reports that while about half of all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers work a full-time, 40-hour work week, a significant number work overtime as well. In fact, 1 out of every 5 welders works 50 hours or more in a given week.
This combined with intense work environments can result in injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports there are dozens of deaths that occur each year from welding and cutting incidents. These were reported to be the result of:
- Crush injuries
Additionally, burns to the eyes in welding account for nearly 6 percent of all construction eye injuries.
Welding requires a significant amount of skill and training. Those who are newer to the profession must be properly trained and supervised to reduce the risk of injury.
Because welding and related work is so dangerous, OSHA has developed specific guidelines to ensure safety, as spelled out in CFR 1910 Subpart Q. While these guidelines get very specific depending on the type of work being done, general requirements include:
- All movable fire hazards must be taken to safe place if object to be welded or cut is not readily movable;
- Guards must be used to confine heat, slag and sparks and to protect from fire hazards;
- In places with floor openings that can’t be closed, precautions must be taken to ensure no combustible materials fall onto or through the floor (same with holes in walls, open doors and open or broken windows);
- Suitable fire extinguisher must be nearby and ready;
- Fire watchers required under certain conditions;
- Inspection of welding area prior to work beginning, and cutting and welding is not permitted in areas unauthorized, where sprinkler systems are impaired or with potential explosives;
- Managers and supervisors are ultimately responsible to ensure worker safety.
Failure to adhere to these and other OSHA requirements increases the likelihood of a welding accident.Types of Welding Injuries
One of the most common types of welding injuries is those sustained to the eyes. BLS estimates there are more than 365,000 welding-related eye injuries that occur every year. That amounts to approximately 1,400 each day. Employers incur an annual cost of $467 million for these injuries. Workers, on the other hand, endure a far greater burden, as eye damage can severely curtail job opportunities, as well as life enjoyment.
Welders are required for this reason to wear helmets and other properly-rated safety equipment to prevent hot metal slag burns, injuries from flying particles, exposure to UV radiation and exposure to irritating fumes, vapors and chemicals.
Burns are another major problem, and can be the result of a sudden burst of heat, as well as long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation and infrared radiation. These conditions can result in damage to the skin’s surface and just beneath, resulting in painful and scarring thermal burns.
Finally, acute exposure to certain hazardous materials or fumes can result in danger such as carbon monoxide poisoning, while prolonged exposure to welding fume can result in lung damage, certain cancers, kidney damage, stomach ulcers, nervous system damage, brain damage and Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
If you or someone you love has suffered a welding injury, it’s important to contact an experienced legal team with extensive resources and a proven track record of success. While workers’ compensation grants immunity to employers, there may be a number of responsible third parties, and launching a thorough investigation as soon as possible after the injury occurs or is discovered is key.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation