Welding is one of the most dangerous occupations in the construction industry. Workers routinely deal with high temperatures, flames, and molten materials just for starters. There are a lot of variables that can turn even the most basic job into an accident that involves a hospital visit in no time.
Often healing from these workers’ compensation injuries can take a while, leaving you out of work with no income and placing you under a temporary financial hardship. Then there is the damage that leaves you with long-term, or even permanent physical damage that can mean an end to your career, and sometimes even your life.
What are the most common welding injuries?
There are, of course, safety protocols in place and protective gear used as a rule when working with tools producing high heat. Whether it relates to the temperature itself or comes directly from a flame, even the best equipment cannot protect workers from every workplace accident. Take a look at some of the typical welding injuries that workers can experience:
- Respiratory Injuries. Chemical fumes produced during soldering are made up of solid particles that can be deposited in the lungs. The particles’ composition varies with the different types of metals used. These fumes can cause many health issues over a long-term period, including nervous system disorders, cancer, kidney damage, lung problems, bone, and joint conditions.
- Eye Injuries. Due to the bright visible light and the exposure to ultraviolet radiation emanating from the electrical arc gases while brazing, welders are prone to eye injuries causing vision problems. Welding accidents can cause damage to the eye surface, membrane, and retina that can result in cataracts and even blindness.
- Electrocution. In the construction industry, electrical shock is a common injury occurring to the welder’s face. The injury often results from two metal parts arcing voltage between them, causing a secondary voltage shock when any part of the welding equipment is grounded.
- Skin injuries. The UV radiation from soldering can burn the skin from direct exposure or reflected off another surface. Just like all UV radiation, long-term exposure can cause skin cancer. A welder should use appropriate gear to avoid high heat inflicting harm on their body.
- Hearing Loss. Welders have a significant risk of hearing loss. While welding is not the loudest of jobs, a couple of factors can create a risk of hearing loss; drop-weld ear injury and over exposure to fumes.
What are the long-term effects of welding accidents?
Some of the common injuries can lead to long-term or permanent damage that may require ongoing medical care or even a change in occupation.
Drop-weld injuries. This occurs if hot metal makes it down into the ear canal. The result can cause significant damage requiring invasive surgery to repair it. Unfortunately, this can also limit hearing ability from that ear.
Over-exposure to fumes. Because heavy metals and toxic gases are released into the environment and absorbed into the body, fumes are probably the biggest offender when it comes to causing the most widespread harm to welders. Some of the metals released include aluminum, arsenic, lead, beryllium, and manganese. Gases that are breathed in by welders can be anything from carbon monoxide to argon. These toxins can wreak havoc on the human body causing everything from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease to hearing loss, to diseases such as cancer.
The long-term respiratory issues caused by fumes include:
- Lung disease
- Metal Fume Fever
- Infectious Pneumonia
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Interstitial Lung Disease
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Lung cancer
Electric Shock. Long-term effects that can be experienced as a result of electrocution can be ongoing. What starts with contact burns can result in nervous system impairment or paralysis. It can also cause heart attack, which can later mean anything from a lifetime of medication to surgical intervention, or heart failure down the road.
Preventing welding injuries
To avoid construction accidents while working with welding tools, you are expected to follow your employer’s safety protocols. This means wearing protective equipment designed to minimize the risks of becoming injured. Employers should provide this protective gear to employees, or at the very least offer an allowance for you to purchase your own.
In general, welders should not wear jewelry as it can get caught on things or heat up and cause a contact burn. Wearing protective boots, gloves, and overalls can decrease the likelihood of suffering electric shock. Other personal protective equipment includes eyewear, respirators, and ear covers. Areas where welding occurs are also supposed to be well ventilated to allow dangerous fumes to escape.
There is specific equipment used to prevent flash burn injuries such as a welding hood and goggles in addition to a lens shade with appropriate filter strength, welding blinds, and helper glasses to help magnify the work surface without forcing welders to put their heads at an unsafe distance to the arc.
Further safety measures call for multiple welders working in close proximity to remain outside of each other’s reach to avoid accidental contact with each other.
Any kind of on-the-job injury should be fully investigated to determine whether you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. When you are facing a lengthy recovery after expensive medical treatment, you need the caring Huntsville workers’ compensation lawyers at Martin & Helms. We serve clients in North Alabama including in Decatur, Athens, and Madison who suffer from long-term welding and other work-related injuries. To schedule your free consultation in our Huntsville or Decatur office, please call 256.539.1990 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form to tell us your story.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.