The odds are that if it is not welded, it was made by equipment that is welded.
The technology welder’s use has changed beyond recognition over the past few decades and today new processes, such as plasma arc, electron beam, laser beam and friction stir welding have increased the range of materials and components that can be welded. Most of these processes are fully automated and computer controlled, making them highly productive. But even with all this high technology, highly skilled human beings are still needed to manually perform welds that can only be done with the skill of the human eye and the human hand.
This close proximity to a potentially unhealthy combination of high energy, confined space and moisture makes welding and related activities amongst the most hazardous undertaken on a mine worksite. The main risks have been identified as:
- Electric shock from both primary and secondary circuits
- Asphyxiation and illness due to inhalation of toxic fumes from gasses created and used
- Radiation and heat burns to the body
- Fire of the surrounding environment
- Explosion due to flammable gasses
- Environmental risks
- Unforeseen hazards which are not generally apparent
Most mine owners, operators and managers monitor their safety performance and are actively developing and implementing safety management plans, but despite these safety measures, there are still plenty of accidents being reported every year.
The costs associated with a work-related injury are not only borne by the worker, but also the employer and the community. Direct and measurable costs include medical expenses, legal costs, and the cost of hiring a replacement worker to name just a few. Indirect costs are often uninsured and always difficult to measure. These can include:
- Loss of skills, experience and knowledge
- Damage to the organisation’s reputation as an attractive workplace
- Increased workload pressure and uncertainty for co-workers
- Absenteeism, turnover and workplace conflict
Despite a slow start, welding equipment manufacturers and suppliers are now focused on safety. Beyond mere regulatory compliance, the Mining Industry has never before had such a comprehensive list of welding safety equipment to select from.
A few examples of innovative safety products are:
VRD (Voltage Reduction Device) - When a VRD is fitted to a welding machine it reduces the maximum unloaded open circuit voltage across the output terminals of the welder to a safe voltage.
Cooling Vests - Heat stress reduces worker morale and productivity and increases absenteeism and mistakes. The new generation products represent a tremendous leap forward in usability and effectiveness in extreme heat conditions.
Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) - Offer protection against metal fumes and dust emitted during welding operations.
Auto Darkening Welding Helmets - By instantly responding to light, these helmets auto darken when the welder strikes the arc, eliminating the neck-strain of “helmet nodding” while helping increase the accuracy of electrode placement.
Fume Extraction - Next generation fume extractors are capable of separation efficiencies as high as 99% and are available in configurations to suit every situation.
Because each mine has unique conditions and features, mine operators should evaluate or test a product’s potential to reduce certain hazards at their mines before using any product.
Investing in innovation can boost employee morale by conveying the message that the company cares enough about its people to protect their health and safety.
Mine safety is a constantly changing legislative and regulatory environment. Weld-Mart Australia understands the specific requirements of the Mining Industry and is continually searching for innovative products to support our customers’ needs, and to work within their budget requirements.