Alert: Electrical hazards associated with welding equipment
Learn about the suggested precautions to prevent electrical hazards when working with welding equipment.
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Workers may be exposed to electrical hazards while performing welding activities, especially in wet or humid conditions at workplaces. Welding may be performed during, the fabrication of new structures, repairs to existing ones, repairs or modifications to equipment or machinery. This alert has been issued to raise awareness about the potential for serious injury or death if welding equipment is not properly operated, maintained or set up.
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.
Anyone who operates welding equipment shall be made aware of the shock or electrocution hazards associated with its use. Workers may be exposed to fatal or critical injuries by improper use, or set up of welding equipment. In addition to regularly maintaining welding equipment, workers should be performing daily assessments/inspections on their equipment and worksite to reduce the risk of injury due to electrical hazards. This includes but is not limited to:
- Properly grounding the welding equipment as close as possible to where work is being done.
- Inspecting extension cords/welding cables for damage or insulation breakdown.
- Inspecting electrode holders for damage, loose connections or bare wires.
- Inspecting personal protective equipment (clothing, gloves) to ensure that it is free from any damage or defects.
- Ensuring footwear is electrically insulated.
- Assessing weather conditions if working outdoors. If working under wet conditions, ensuring clothing and gloves remain dry.
- Using insulating barriers to protect workers from direct contact with metal parts.
- Using voltage-reducing devices to greatly reduce the chance of being electrically shocked.
- Using ground fault circuit interrupters/protection where extension cords or portable power tools are used with welding tasks.
Receiving an electrical shock from welding equipment should not be treated as part of the job. Workers who receive an electrical shock while welding should report immediately to a supervisor and seek medical attention. The welding equipment should also be removed from service.
Applicable legislation and regulations
Some requirements that may apply are:
- Mining – Good Electrical Practices, subsection 155(2) of Regulation 854 (Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants)
- Industrial – Machine Guarding, sections 40, 43, 44, and 44.1 of Regulation 851 (Regulation for Industrial Establishments)
- Construction – Equipment, section 93, Welding and Cutting, Section 124, and Electrical Hazards, sections 183, 185, 187, 195, 195.1, 195.2, and 195.3 of O. Reg. 213/91 (Regulation for Construction Projects)
- Health Care – Equipment, section 44, and Electrical Equipment, sections 62, 69, and 70 of O. Reg. 67/93 (Regulation for Health Care and Residential Facilities)
Other regulatory requirements that may be of interest are:
- O. Reg. 632/05 (Confined Spaces)
- Regulation 855 (Oil and Gas–Offshore)
- Regulation 859 (Window Cleaning)
In addition to the regulations referenced above, clause 25(2)(h), of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires all Ontario employers, regardless of the type of work, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers. Clauses 25 (1)(b), and 25(2)(a) require employers to maintain equipment in good condition and provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety.
Given the seriousness of this hazard, it is advisable that workers be properly trained on, and follow, the manufacturer's instructions for using welding equipment. Failure to adhere to these steps can result in serious injury or death.