A metal fabrication workshop has a range of safety hazards. The obvious ones include thermal, electrical, fume, trips and hand injuries. However, welding is a physical job involving bending, reaching, and gripping, all of which present risks of MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders). MSDs include injuries and conditions that can affect the back, joints and limbs. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE INDB390 rev2), 51% of welders suffered 1 period of sickness over a two-year period taking time off for muscle or joint and tender disorders.
The HSE classes the causes of MSDs as:
- bending, crouching or stooping
- lifting heavy or bulky loads
- pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads
- stretching, twisting and reaching
- repetitive work, particularly using the same hand or arm action
- sustained or excessive force
- carrying out a task for a long time
- work with display screen equipment
- working with hand-held power tools for a long time
- driving heavy vehicles, long-distance driving or driving over rough ground
- environmental, organisational or mental
It is an employer's obligation under The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 to protect workers from the risks of musculoskeletal disorders being caused or made worse by work. For more information see the HSE webpage.
The over-riding solutions to mitigate these risks include thorough risk assessments, employee training on risks and safe manual handling techniques, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as conforming to the legal workplace requirements in terms of equipment, working hours and environment.
The following steps are intended to provide a summary of the safe lifting technique for welding gas cylinders:
- Foot position: hip width apart with one slightly in front of the other, astride the valve end of the cylinder.
- Bend the knees to lower your body. This will enable your strong thigh muscles to do most of the lifting.
- Firm grip: ensure the guard is secure then take a firm grip using both hands.
- Straight back - keep your back straight throughout its length. This does not mean it has to be vertical. Doing this will prevent a slipped disc.
- Pull the chin in. By pulling the chin in, the back is locked in a straight line.
- Lift decisively. This is done initially by straightening the legs then following through with the arms, at the same time walking forward until the cylinder is upright.
Clearly welding involves many of the actions listed by the HSE above so what can be done specifically with regards to welding gas cylinders to minimise injury?
Improve Safety in your Workplace
Traditionally, welding gas cylinders are tall, bulky and heavy. With an average height of 1.5m and a small base diameter, conventional gas cylinders have a high centre of gravity and are at risk of toppling. Combining the height with an average weight of 85kg, makes them extremely difficult to lift and manoeuvre onto the back of the welding machine.
However - it doesn't have to be this way. All of Air Products' welding and cutting gases are available in the Integra® cylinder format. Compressed at 300 bar pressure, the 30 litre Integra® cylinder is 29% shorter and 23% lighter than the 200 bar 47 litre equivalents whilst lasting almost as long. The welding gas cylinders are fitted with an integrated handle and the cutting cylinders with a rolling knob. What this compact format means, is that the cylinders are easier to handle, the risk of toppling is reduced and there is no increase in the number of cylinder changeovers required per shift. Furthermore, the quick-connecting Integra® Flow Optimiser (IFO) connects the Integra® welding gas cylinder to the welding set-up in a fraction of the time than conventional cylinders. There is no need to attach a regulator, as it is integrated into the cylinder head. Also, the connection is just as easy when wearing welding gauntlets, further reducing the risk of any finger or hand injuries.
Why not switch to an Integra® cylinder and lighten the load for your workforce?
For more information visit: Integra® Cylinder Equipment
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