What Are Welding, Cutting, and Brazing?
“Welding joins pieces of metal by use of heat, pressure or both.” (2) Welding may involve the use of blow torches or electric arcs. Sometimes welding involves use of “oxy-acetylene gas, electrical current, lasers, electron beams, friction and chemical reactions.” (3)
Unlike welding, “cutting processes involve separating or severing a piece of metal through intense heat generated to melt the metal. Cutting processes include oxygen and fuel gas and electrical arc gouging.” (4)
“Brazing is a process similar to welding in that a liquid filler metal is heated and flows between two or more metal surfaces to be joined.” (5) Braze metal is liquefied and then spread over the surface to be joined. In welding, both the base and filler metals are heated to a molten state.
Workers At Risk
“Statistics show that more than 1 in 250 construction workers will suffer fatal injuries from welding over a working lifetime,” reports Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN). (6) The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 49 fatalities among welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in 2019. (7)
While the causes of welding accidents are numerous, most can be prevented. A significant factor leading to welding incidents resulting in injuries is failures in training.
If you've suffered serious harm from a welding accident, a lawsuit can help your recovery.
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Causes of Injury
“A construction worker may need to have welding training for a certain project, while a plumber also needs to know how to weld for his career. It is imperative that someone who is welding on the job — or even doing it at home — has the right training and equipment,” notes ISHN. (8) Inexperience and lack of training can cause accidents leading to injuries.
Other causes of welding, cutting, and brazing injuries are:
- Fires and explosions. Work of a “hot work” nature performed within less than 35 feet of combustible materials can result in fires or explosions. Hot work teams must have someone designated as a “fire watch” whose job is to look for embers, sparks, or anything possible of starting a fire; extinguish a fire; and alert people of a fire. (9)
- Burns. BLS data show out of 1,820 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work, 60 were due to heat and thermal burn injuries. This was among welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers employed by private industry. (10)
- Radiation. Radiation or electromagnetic energy, such as ultraviolet rays, can cause burns to the eyes. These burns are sometimes called “welders’ eye” or “arc eye.” The effects of these burns may be delayed for up to several hours after exposure. (11) Burns of this nature result in conjunctivitis, “an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the front of the eye.” (12)
- Electric shock/electrocution. “Damaged or improperly maintained equipment — such as cables or missing/burned out insulators, or faulty connections — can cause shock injuries or electrocution.” (13)
- Fumes and gases. Exposure to emissions of hazardous fumes, like hexavalent chromium and manganese, are a serious health risk. Failure to control exposure to fumes and gases can lead to serious conditions like nervous system issues, cancers, suffocation, and problems with the septum. (14)
Welding accidents can result in a variety of possible injuries. “Health hazards from welding, cutting, and brazing operations include exposures to metal fumes and to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Safety hazards from these operations include burns, eye damage, electrical shock, cuts, and crushed toes and fingers.” (15)
Common welding injuries include:
- Burns. These injuries can range from mild to lethal. Burn injuries result from the intense heat and pressure used in the welding process. While most burn injuries are visible, others may appear over time. (16)
- Exposure to radiation. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation or infrared radiation can cause pain and scarring from thermal burns to the eyes. These types of injuries are due to the electric arc in the welding process. (17)
- Exposure to light. “When our eyes are exposed to intense visible light, a variety of optical injuries can occur. Retinal damage is a common result of exposure to intense visible light during the welding process.” (18)
- Exposure to fumes. During welding, fumes from metals can damage the lungs or lead to cancer. “Exposure to hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer or issues with the respiratory tract, such as the development of sores in the nose or a hole in the septum, which separates the nasal passages.” (19)
- Hearing Loss. Noise is another welding hazard. (20) “Welders are exposed to loud noises, intense heat, blinding light and breathing in potentially dangerous welding fumes… fumes have been shown to have a major negative impact on hearing… exposure to certain chemicals or heavy metals combined with loud noise are said to cause even more harm to the hearing than either types of exposure alone.” (21)
- Neurological Issues. Welding fumes can have damaging neurological effects resulting in permanent harm to auditory nerve fibers and cells of the inner ear. They can also cause Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms, including tremors and poor balance. (22)
If you have sustained serious injuries from a welding accident, it is best to consider all of your legal options. An attorney can help you explore those options and take steps toward remedying your situation financially.
Welding lawsuits cases may fall under the legal concept of negligence. Negligence is defined as a “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.” (23)
When a welding accident results in a fatality, the case may fall under wrongful death. This is defined as, “A death caused by the wrongful act of another, either accidentally or intentionally.” (24) Wrongful death claims are usually brought by family members to gain compensation for the loss of both their loved one and their loved one’s income. (25)
Were you or a loved one injured in a welding accident? You may be eligible for compensation.
Who Is Liable?
In welding accident cases, employers not providing a safe working environment may face liability for injuries sustained on the job. For example, if workers are welding in areas where there is not proper ventilation and engineering controls have not been employed or are inadequate. Engineering controls may include such things as exhaust ventilation or fume extraction welding guns. (26)
Another instance where an employer may be liable is if it does not provide safety gear or adhere to proper Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards and guidelines.
Manufacturers can be held accountable if faulty equipment or equipment design resulted in injury. For example, a design flaw of valves on an acetylene tank leads to an explosion.
It is not only workers who can be permanently injured, or die, from a welding accident. A person passing by when someone is welding could also fall victim to flying sparks and end up blinded or scarred.
How W&L Can Help
Welding accidents can result in catastrophic injuries, but obtaining compensation for those injuries often requires legal action. This is where an experienced attorney can help.
W&L has helped clients for over 30 years. We have a successful history of obtaining compensation for our clients in personal injury cases, like welding accidents. We hold those responsible accountable for the harm done to our clients.
Some of our successes include:
- W&L recovered $2.96 million after a negligent co-worker driving a hi-lo overturned it, amputating part of our client’s leg. The company was also found accountable for the accident because there were not adequate vehicle barriers around the pit where the men were working.
- W&L recovered $10 million for our client when a negligently designed bungee cord brake system failed. The brakes for the zip line he was on broke and struck him in one eye, resulting in permanent blindness in the eye.