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Bright spark

Coates Hire reminds site workers that stick welding machines can cause electric shocks if not used properly.

By Joe Perulero

Welding is a common task on work sites but people who work with stick and mig welders should also be aware of the chance of electric shock under certain conditions.

An electric stick welding machine can produce high voltages (around 80V-100V AC) and incorrect use of the machines can – and does – cause electric shock or electrocution in some situations, usually when there is water at the site.

Firstly, have a look at how you are setting up your machine. It should never sit in water or even be situated on damp ground. This precaution extends to the broader environment: ensure there’s no water dropping from above or that the machine is in range of sprinklers etc.

Secondly, think about your safety when changing the welding electrode in your welder. You should never touch a live electrode with any part of your body. You should either switch off or unplug the machine at the power source.

We also recommend you use a ‘dead man’s’ switch between the electrode holder and the welding unit; this allows you to kill the voltage and current by using the pedal, before changing the electrode.

A crucial safety device for these welding machines is a VRD, or Voltage Reduction Device. These reduce the raw voltage used in the unit, from 80-100 volts down to 12 volts, when you are not striking an arc (welding).
The best, modern stick welders now have a VRD built into them and they are labelled or stamped with the initials ‘VRD’.

It is industry best practice to have VRD protection. However, many cheap and unrecognised brands do not include VRDs.

People with old stick welding machines should check if they have VRD protection – if your machine is old and isn’t labelled it's likely you have no VRD protection and have the full voltage running to your machine.

All Coates Hire stick welding machines should have VRDs built into them, thus protecting the user.

Finally, when welding, ensure you are wearing the appropriate safety PPE, and make sure it is dry. Avoid welding under wet conditions if possible: of course, there may be situations where this is not possible and extra precautions may be necessary, for instance an overhead canopy, dry boards, rubber matting etc.

While welding carries risks, your safety depends on following the rules and procedures and identifying hazardous conditions by using your Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

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