Hot work is always hazardous, but when we do dangerous work as a matter of routine, we often get careless. So, perhaps we may know that we should be using a welding blanket, but when the task is small, we take a chance. This is not something we can afford to do.
Facilities worth millions of dollars are burned down every year as a result of welding fires. Worse still, there is often loss of life or severe injuries. No matter how experienced your staff is, the measures they must take to prevent welding fires should always be kept firmly in mind.
Training is key
A trained welder is a skilled worker. During training, welders learn how to guard against fires, but refresher courses are also important. We need to be reminded of the dangers involved in welding, and we need to take the appropriate precautions. Health and Safety refresher courses for people performing hot work help to keep safety uppermost in their minds. Sure, you won’t see the ROI, but it’s what you DON’T get that matters most here.
Besides, proper safety training for those doing hazardous work as part of their professions is no longer just optional. NFPA 51B rules that all workers engaged with welding should be aware of the hazards and know how to prevent fires.
Scope the area before welding begins
Since welding is risky, risks must be identified and addressed before any work begins. And since sparks fly, that means checking an area up to at least 35 feet in all directions from the welding activity. Depending on the site, it may be necessary to remove flammable materials, and where this is not possible, to take additional safety measures, such as using a welding screen made from fireproof material. If possible, the item to be welded should be taken to a fire-safe workshop, but unfortunately, that isn’t always feasible.
A trained welding artisan will be familiar with safety standards and will know what to look for. Flammable materials that could pose a hazard include paper and cardboard, rags, gas cylinders, cans of chemicals, cleaning materials, solvents and even dust. When flammable items can’t be removed, it may be wise to cover them with a fire-resistant material or fire blanket during welding.
Wooden flooring and wooden beams are examples of items that would be impossible to move. By covering them with a welding blanket, the risk of fire is eliminated. But remember, the protection you get from a welding blanket is only as good as the welding blanket itself. For ultimate safety, we recommend the Alpha welding blanket.
Sometimes, we can’t avoid welding in areas with flammable materials, and since hot slag can smoulder for hours before causing a fire we can see, fire watchers would keep checking for fires for half an hour or more after the welding work is completed. In high risk situations, fire watchers would be used even when there are fire screens, fire blankets and welding blankets in use.
Since 22 percent of welding fires are caused by ignition of structural components or insulation, watching for fires after welding work is all the more important. The Fabricator tells us that most welding fires start during breaks and shift changes, so fire watchers must be especially vigilant at these times. NFPA 51 B indicates when safety necessitates fire watchers on duty.
Mind the Cracks
A lot of welding fires start after hot material gets lodged in small cracks, crevices or holes. When these are present in the area, they need to be covered with a fireproof material such as a welding blanket or fire blanket. By preventing sparks from lodging in these little spaces, we reduce the chances of an out-of-control welding fire.
Apart from all the usual PPE, the clothing worn by welders also needs to be appropriate to the task. Synthetic fabrics can catch fire easily, and clothing with rolled up cuffs or open pockets can trap sparks. Most professional welding personnel will be aware of this need, but many DIY welders have been caught out with the wrong clothing choices.
Be prepared for fire
Fire safety equipment should be on hand. That means having a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket handy. Type A fire extinguishers are best at killing fires that start on solid materials, while type B for extinguishers are better for extinguishing flammable liquids. A fire blanket smothers fires by limiting oxygen. All welding personnel should be trained in basic firefighting techniques.
Take Care of Cylinders
A gas cylinder is a potentially explosive device. Storing welding cylinders in a safe place is important, but workers also need to be careful during welding. For example, if a welder is working at a height with his cylinder directly below him, hot sparks could trigger an explosion. We also can’t risk cylinders falling over. The right equipment to secure them should always be on hand.
Fireproof Fabrics and Welding Blankets Play an Important Role
We should never compromise when it comes to fire safety during welding or cutting operations. Yes, a good fire blanket will cost more than a flimsy one, but when you consider the value of the buildings, plant, and equipment it protects, there’s no point in trying to cut corners on pricing.
A good welding blanket will not only have the right specifications and certifications, it will also be designed to make compliance with safety regulations easy and comfortable. For example, our welding blankets are coated so that employees don’t have to deal with the constant itching that regular fiberglass welding blankets cause.
It’s also remarkably lightweight and flexible. On a busy day with much to get done, workers may be tempted to take short-cuts if the welding blanket is too heavy and cumbersome. Knowing the rules is one thing, making it easy to follow them is another.
Would You Like to Know More About our Fireproof Fabrics?
As specialists in the provision of fireproof materials, we are here to help you find the most appropriate materials to keep your workers and your facilities safe. Our range of welding blankets covers everything from light welding work to the most intensive applications. We are proud of our fire-proof fabrics: they’re used in extremely dangerous industries such as oil and gas. Browse our range or contact us for in-person service.