Preventing Welding-related Burn Injuries

Awareness & Prevention

Several burn hazards are present while using welding equipment. Some of these include sparks, pieces of hot metal, hot equipment, spatter, and arc ray radiation.
To mitigate these hazards, it is recommended that operators:

  1. Use approved helmets or hand shields that provide protection for the face, neck, and ears, and wear a head covering.
  2. Wear approved safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields, even under your helmet.
  3. Wear dry, hole-free insulating gloves.
  4. Wear flame-resistant ear plugs or earmuffs to keep sparks out of ears when welding or cutting overhead or in confined spaces.
  5. Wear oil-free flame-resistant, non-melting protective garments such as leather gloves, heavy shirt, cuffless pants, high shoes, and a cap.
  6. Wear leather leggings and flame-resistant boots, as needed.
  7. In cold climates heavy clothing may prevent awareness of clothing fires.
  8. Use dry, hole-free aprons, cape sleeves, leggings, shoulder covers, and bibs approved for welding and cutting service.
  9. Remove any combustibles, such as a butane lighter or matches, from your person before doing any welding or cutting.
  10.  Touching hot equipment such as electrode holders, gun tips, and nozzles can cause burns. Always wear dry, insulating gloves. Allow a cooling period before touching these and other parts of equipment that are near the actual welding or cutting operation.
  11. Do not wear pants with cuffs, shirts with open pockets, or any clothing that can trap molten metal or sparks.
  12.  Keep clothing free of grease, oil, solvents, or any flammable substances.
  13. If combustible substances spill on protective clothing, change to clean clothing before doing any welding or cutting.
  14.  Use sheet metal screens for extra protection when unusually heavy welding or cutting is involved.

Additionally, to protect others in the area from burns, operators should:

  1. Use noncombustible screens or barriers to protect nearby persons or observers.
  2. Mark hot work pieces to alert others of the burn and fire hazards.
  3. If the job requires several persons, have all wear proper protective gear and follow all required procedures.

First Aid Treatment

The proper response and initial treatment of welding-derived burns is crucial to the recovery and health of the injured individual.

The following is a recommended procedure to follow for the first aid treatment of minor burns.

  1. Cool the burn. Hold the area under cool (not cold) running water for about 10 minutes. If the burn is on the face, apply a cool, wet cloth until the pain eases.
  2. Remove rings or other tight items from the burned area. Try to do this quickly and gently, before the area swells.
  3. Don’t break blisters. Blisters help protect against infection. If a blister does break, gently clean the area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment.
  4. Apply lotion. After the burn is cooled, apply a lotion, such as one with aloe vera or cocoa butter. This helps prevent drying and provides relief.
  5. Bandage the burn. Cover the burn with a clean bandage. Wrap it loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the area, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.

Call 911 or seek immediate care for any major burns, which:

  1. Are deep, involving all layers of the skin.
  2. Cause the skin to be dry and leathery.
  3. May appear charred or have patches of white, brown or black.
  4. Are larger than 3 inches (about 8 centimeters) in diameter.
  5. Cover the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint, or encircles an arm or leg.
  6. Are accompanied by smoke inhalation.
  7. Begin swelling very quickly.