Avoid these common welding hand safety hazards for good

May 11, 2022

Where there’s extreme heat, there’s extreme hazard potential. The general nature of marrying together common metals like iron, steel, and aluminum (and sometimes plastics) with a heat source from an electric arc, flame, pressure, or friction is known to be an extremely dangerous process.

And when it becomes too hot and uncontrolled – even with the most experienced welder – an injury can happen almost immediately.

But it’s not only heat hazards that workers must be aware of. Welders are required to work with various metals that are often raw and jagged, with the sharp edges coming from freshly cut steel and broken metal shavings/shard.

These materials and surrounding equipment can also be heavy; any abrupt shift could expose a worker’s hands to smash and pinch injuries. Not to mention there’s a high chance of secondary tasks that carry with them even more potential hazards.

The last line of defense is key

These types of accidents impact more than 754,000 estimated welding professionals in the U.S., according to the American Welding Society; but fortunately, many – if not all – of the welding injuries listed below can be prevented with proper preparations and hand PPE.

Though the last line of defense, PPE is critical to mitigating injury. Let’s dive into common hand hazards and how we can better protect against them.

Types of hazards and how the right glove can help

Contact burns

Regardless of what type of metal a welder is working with, heat is conducted at a very fast rate and at an extremely high temperature. When heated metal is touched directly, even for a fraction of a second, skin lesions and burns happen instantaneously and can range from superficial injuries to severe situations that are known to damage underlying tissues, nerves, and muscles.

MIG and stick welders, even inspectors, find this to be an issue especially since sparks and spattered metal are constantly airborne and present during the process. Additionally, dermal injuries can turn severe due to noncompliance and clunky PPE.

In some instances, when bare skin is accidentally touched by the electrode emitting heat between 6,500°F and 10,000°F, a worker can be scorched almost immediately – producing third-degree burns.

How the right PPE can help you avoid this injury:

Welding gloves are made with different types of leather and oftentimes include a liner to assist with comfort or additional protection. However, not all welding gloves are created equal – especially when it comes to leather treatment technology and performance-improving glove liners.

We recommend looking for the following materials in your welding glove:

  • Aramid – Typically used as an interior liner or stitching, aramid is designed for heat resistance and durability, Aramid fibers have an extremely high melting point up to 932°F.
  • Fiberglass – Especially in fiber form, fiberglass can withstand heat up to 1000°F before it will melt. Used mostly as an interior liner.
  • Polyester – Most often seen in fabric form as an interior liner, polyester is flame-resistant and does not burn easily, withstanding heat up to 483°F before melting.
  • Leather – Cowhide and goatskin leather exteriors are extremely common, known for their durability and ability to diminish heat. Leather can withstand up to 200°F before charring.

When you combine two or more of these materials, like a glove made with a leather exterior and an aramid liner, for instance, the heat-resistant performance of the glove significantly increases – allowing a welder to work near a weld site between 600°F and 2000°F (depending on actual glove performance scores and how long a weld is being held).

Pro tip: Look for high-quality leather, and even treated leather, to increase performance. HexArmor’s 5050 HeatArmor® glove offers incredible HeatHide® technology plus an aramid liner for superior performance, dexterity, and comfort. View glove.

Radiant burns

The most prevalent injury in welding, a radiant burn, is the byproduct of electric arc which is the byproduct of the electrical arc producing high-intensity ultraviolet radiation when melting the metal. UVR produces radiation at 200nm up to 1.4 micrometers – which is like the radiation the sun emits, but in different proportions. Direct or even reflected exposure, which has been bounced back from a metal surface, can be extremely damaging to the skin and eyes.

For example, TIG welders who often feed wire with one bare hand for dexterity reasons are at high risk for not only an extremely severe contact burn but a radiant burn that resembles a severe sunburn even without direct contact. It's important to note that radiant heat doesn’t need to feel hot/burning to cause significant damage.

The extent of a radiant burn ranges from mild, with a weeklong recovery period, to a blistering and fluid-filled burn, where the recovery period can span between two to four months.

How the right PPE can help you avoid this injury:

Due to the way welders hold their hands in a parallel uniform near most types of weld sites, extra protection is needed on the backside of welding gloves where this excessive heat and radiation is present.

Any of the above-mentioned materials (aramid, fiberglass, polyester, and leather) with heat resistance will help your hands avoid radiant burns.

Pro tip: Since we know that UVR can be reflected, radiant burns have been found on the legs, neck, and upper arms. Therefore, in addition to gloves, wearing thick, heavy, non-flammable clothing/PPE is recommended to help ensure that any exposed skin is covered and protected.

Cuts and punctures

Welders handle various metals with extremely sharp edges, like stainless steel or sheet metal. Aluminum is also a very common metal used in welding, and although lightweight, it has extremely sharp edges when it’s shaved or cut.

Because of the way welders must grasp these metals as they are being transferred, held, or carried, the sharp edges rub against the palm of the hand and cause the abrasion or shredding of the users’ gloves.

When the glove begins to wear down, the likelihood that it could be punctured increases. Since most cuts start as a puncture, choosing welding gloves that offer cut resistance is extremely important.

How the right PPE can help you avoid this injury:

Though the leather exterior of most welding gloves is naturally a very tough material, on its own it can be lacking for extra cut and puncture protection. That’s why using additional highly abrasion-resistant material is a necessity when it comes to welding.

Look for gloves that are made with steel or Aramid fibers (found in liners) since they are known to have effective cut (and added heat) resistance and can lower the time in which your glove may deteriorate from use. The glove with the highest cut resistance will have a steel or Aramid interior liner combined with a leather exterior.

Pro tip: HexArmor® recommends at least an ANSI/ISEA cut level A3 in welding gloves – and our HeatArmor® welding glove line goes up to level A6 for maximum protection. View gloves.

Smashes

Welders are known to work 8-to-12-hour shifts and are required to lift heavy materials, so stamina and steady hand strength are requirements for the job. However, after long hours of work, muscle fatigue can lead to the accidental dropping or slipping of heavy materials.

Smash and pinch injuries happen when an object has slipped and fallen on the welder, which can lead to tissue, muscle, and bone injuries. These accidental fumbles can occur because a welder’s gloves have become too stiff due to overexposure to heat, resulting in the loss of dexterity, and the low-quality materials becoming worn out.

Because most of these injuries happen to the wrists, knuckles, and fingers, the option to have impact protection is critical in welding gloves.

How the right PPE can help you avoid this injury:

To protect your hands, consider welding gloves that offer impact protection without minimizing dexterity. We know those are hard to come by, but they do exist. Look for options that have an ANSI/ISEA impact score and can take the heat of a weld without compromising safety.

Pro tip: HexArmor’s HeatArmor® 5055 offers exceptional heat resistance + impact protection rated at ANSI/ISEA level 2. View gloves.

Additionally, for accidental drops, steel-toed boots are also recommended to keep your feet safe as well.

HexArmor® can help

Welding is a dangerous job, and the right glove makes all the difference. Step up your safety standards with HexArmor’s® newest glove line, HeatArmor®. Purpose-built to serve each type of welder and their specific hot work hazards so you can bring on the heat with confidence.

Learn more about HeatArmor® technology here.

Let us know if you need help or are interested in starting a trial program – our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1-877-MY-ARMOR or send us a message.

Browse HeatArmor® welding gloves

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