Brazing is the act of forming, fixing, or joining by soldering at a high temperature. As you may have guessed, many of these accidents take place in a construction zone workplace; however, there are many workplaces other than construction where brazing takes place. Even though these tools are very efficient, they can also be very dangerous when used improperly. In fact, the Occupational Safety & health Administration (OSHA) has determined that brazing is one of the most hazardous activities in the workplace and poses safety and health risks to over 500,000 workers each year! An estimated 562,000 employees may be at risk for exposure to chemical and physical hazards posed by welding, cutting, and brazing in the industry.
Many health hazards are posed by exposure to fumes, gases, and ionizing radiation that come from brazing. Some of these hazards include heavy metal poisoning, lung cancer, metal fume fever, flash burns, and others. Of course, the risks may vary but are still evident. Workers must always be prepared for these accidents. Furthermore, the worker’s eyes, skin, and hair can be affected by the toxic gases. Working with brazing requires a lot of heat, which can cause burns – and do each year on very serious levels!
Exposure and Risks
There are unique hazards associated with welding and brazing. Employers become responsible for assessing these risks and making sure that employees do not become injured in the workplace. These injuries can be irreversible, with long-lasting and sometimes painful damage. Here are some of the most common hazards, explained:
- Ultraviolet Radiation (UV): This is generated by the electric arc. What happens if your skin comes in contact with the UV? It could cause severe burns without any particular warning. UV can also damage the lens of the eye, which can be known as “arc-eye,” or a sensation of sand in the eyes. When your eyes are constantly exposed to UV, this can occur without warning.
- Exposure to Infrared Radiation (IR): This is also produced by the electric arc. The skin becomes heated and the tissues will immediately be heated as well below the surface. This can actually progress to thermal burns. However, there are protection devices that workers must be equipped with on the job, which becomes the responsibility of the employer.
- Intense Visible Light: If the eye is exposed to this light, it can produce adaptation, pupillary reflex, and shading of the eyes. Protective measures should be taken so that excessive light does not enter the eyes and focus on the retina. Workers may wear a helmet to get past this exposure.
Safety in the Workplace
So, how can safety measures be followed when brazing? As you know, there is always the possibility that dangerous fumes and gases will rise while you are working. Here are some ways to guard yourself from these fumes and come out unharmed:
- You should always make sure that confined areas are ventilated. This can take place with the help of ventilating fans and exhaust hoods. These pieces of equipment work as a way to carry the fumes and gases away from the area where you are working. Air supplied respirators should also be on hand at all times.
- All base metals should be cleaned. If there is a contaminate on the metals and brazing takes place, this may add to the fume hazard and could a breakdown of flux. Because of this, overheating and fuming might occur.
- Use flux sufficiently. Flux is what protects base metals during the heating process involved with brazing. If there is proper coverage, fuming will not occur much at all.
- Heat metals broadly and uniformly. Localized heating will only use the flux and lead to fuming. Always apply heat only to base metals and not filler metal.
- Gain a better understanding of your base metals. Know which coatings will produce toxic fumes during the heating process. If you know that a coating may produce these toxic fumes, you should remove them before the brazing process begins.
- Always understand your filler metals as well. Gaining knowledge can keep you safe. If a filler metal contains cadmium, you should never overheat it. You can ask about the recommended brazing temperatures of a specific filler metal. Filler metal will carry a warning label, which you should always become knowledgeable with.
Injuries and What to do When They Occur
Some of the most common reasons why these serious brazing injuries occur in the first place has to do widely with incorrect training, use of welding torches and other equipment in severely enclosed spaces, lack of equipment to protect, lack of correct supervision, and construction equipment defects. It doesn’t matter how these accidents occur – the results will always be devastating and leave a mark on the person who was just trying to get work done brazing. Nobody expects to leave work with severe burns, amputations, fractures, and other serious injuries including those to the eyes. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, you can probably make a case.
Accidents related to brazing will usually result in long-term, expensive medical care. This is why you are entitled to fair compensation during the healing process if your injuries are not permanent. OSHA and many other organizations have banded together to attempt and show workers as well as their employers that there are many hazards involved in welding and brazing. These injuries are very high on the priority list because many workers become exposed to unique, serious physical and chemical hazards. The risks are high, which is why precautions are always being implemented to prevent these serious injuries.
Were you injured in the construction industry when you were brazing? Did you receive an eye injury, a laceration, chemical exposure, or another injury or illness related to the dangerous brazing process? If you believe that you have proof that another party was negligent and it resulted in your injuries, you should give us a call today. At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, we are there for you in your time of need.