Photo Credit: Kelly Heck Photography
Creating a safe and healthy work environment in your metal fabrication and welding shop doesn’t happen by accident. At EDCO, we’ve found that preventing accidents and injuries, and minimizing workplace-related illnesses, is possible—and it starts with assessing the hazards in your metal work operation so that you can manage them carefully and strategically.
DETERMINE HAZARDS AND RISKS
Knowing which areas of your metal work operation present the most risk to your employees is key to preventing accidental injury. A manager, director, or healthy and safety officer should conduct the risk assessment of your fabrication and welding shops, but don’t forget to ask your employees for their input. Their feedback will be invaluable as you determine which fabrication and welding tasks incur the most risk to your employees, and help identify the steps you can take to prevent or mitigate these accidents. Record your findings carefully and create a detailed master health and safety plan for your metal work operation. Once you have a plan in place, create a schedule for performing regular risk assessments so that you can revise your health and safety policies based on any new hazards or safety issues you identify.
TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES
There is no substitute for thorough training on the floor of your metal work operation. Educating your employees on how to appropriately handle, operate, and store your fabrication and welding systems, making them aware of the hazards of operating the equipment, and teaching to identify the signs of an impending system malfunction, are all key to preventing accidents and injuries on the job.
PROVIDE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Every employee should be outfitted with certified personal protective equipment (PPE) that is appropriate for the fabrication or welding systems they are operating. Typical PPE includes earmuffs or earplugs, safety glasses, face shields, welding respirators and helmets, flameproof gloves, hard hats, oil resistant shoes, and custom-designed, flame resistant and non-conductive clothing.
REDUCE EXPOSURE TO TOXINS
Installing an efficient fume-extraction system makes the air in your metal fabrication and welding shops safer to breathe. Reducing your employees’ exposure to toxic substances will keep them healthier and less likely to develop short-term and chronic illnesses.
MONITOR AND SERVICE SYSTEMS PROACTIVELY
Safeguarding your employees’ health requires on ongoing commitment to inspecting your fabrication and welding systems regularly. Address any faulty equipment at the first signs of malfunction to prevent accidents and injuries. Hazard signs save lives. Be sure that every area that needs to be marked for safety reasons is clearly labeled. Are yours visible? Regular walk-throughs will help catch any health and safety issues before they cause illness, injury, or even death.
Whether you run a small welding shop or a state-of-the-art metal fabrication outfit, you must create a culture of safety from the top down. It’s up to you to lead by example. The safest, healthiest metal work companies not only adhere to the federal standards, regulations and codes, they go beyond them. Identifying issues in advance and addressing them before they cause injury or illness will go a long way toward protecting your employees’ health and safety, boosting morale, and increasing company productivity.