MIG welding has very particular safety issues compared to other processes. Some safety concerns can be nothing more than getting badly burnt all the way to death without any warning. The basic safety equipment needed is as follows:
- Welding Helmet with a shade 10 or 11 lens depending on the voltage welded with to protect your eyes from UV radiation.
- Safety Glasses to protect your eyes from sparks and flying spatter from cleaning the weld.
- Leather gloves that can insulate you from electrical shock and burns from heat and sparks. In some cases welding gloves that have a reflective coating to deal with the heat of welding heavy plate.
- Long pants and sleeves that are either cotton, leather or made from fire retardant material to protect your skin from UV rays and hot metals. Hint: good sun block also helps on the areas of the skin that have no clothing.
- Leather booths to protect your feet from the sparks and molten metal that will fall.
- Excellent ventilation that will remove the shielding gasses but not take them away from the weld area.
MIG Welding Specific Safety Issues
Extra concerns for MIG welding come from two areas:
- Wire Feeder
- Shielding Gases
The wire feeder has three safety issues. The first is when you stop welding the electrode stick-out has a droplet of hot molten metal that can easily penetrate a welding glove and into the hand of the welder. You need to be careful of that molten droplet that is ready to be feed into your hand or elsewhere. The second is that the wire feeder can shock the welder when changing MIG tips or wire by mistakenly pressing the trigger. Finally the wire feeder can either get the trigger pressed by mistake (you put the MIG gun down and something leans against the trigger) or the auto feed feature can be enabled. This results with the wire feeder doing its job while feeding gas, filler metal and electricity to whatever is nearby. In most cases you get a bunch of red hot wire creating something that looks like a birds nest. In other cases it can set things on fire and in extreme cases it can it can shock, short circuit or set something extremely flammable like the acetylene torch hose on fire. Not fun!
Shielding gases are a big issue on any jobsite. Most shielding gases fill work spaces like water. They fill the area from the bottom up. Once they get to your breathing zone you will literally suffocate without knowing it. The welder is just welding and all of a sudden gets real tired. After that they pass out without notice anything is wrong. You would not believe how many people die each year from shielding gases. Shielding gas risks depend on the type of gas used. For most MIG welding application a Argon based gas is what is used. This type of gas is heaver then the atmosphere so it fills lower spaces like water. This is the most dangerous type of welding danger because it literally creeps up on you.
Additional safety issues come from welding fumes. All Fumes ARE Bad For YOU! The really bad fumes come from welding stainless steel and aluminum. These cause cancer 15 to 20 years later when you least expect it.