Male wearing welding mask welding the back of a tractor on a farm

How to manage the risks of welding on farms

Welding is an invaluable skill in farming life, but careful risk management is needed to keep welders safe while they work.

When done properly, welding presents low risks to the welder. In unfavourable circumstances, however, welders can face significant risks to their vision, their respiratory system and also be in danger of developing longer term health issues such as cancer of the kidney and lungs.

Dominic Jones, Loss Prevention Leader at Cornish Mutual, has the following farm safety tips for reducing risks when you are welding, and when employees or contractors are working with welding equipment on the farm as well:

“Proper PPE is the first line of defence against the dangers of welding, and equipment such as welding helmets, aprons and gloves will protect workers’ eyesight and reduce the risks of burn injuries.

“Fumes are a bigger threat to welders, as these are often colourless, odourless and an unavoidable by-product of the welding process. Recent research from Health and Safety England has found that there is no ‘safe limit’ to welding fume exposure, so welding needs to be managed to keep the risk from fumes as low as possible.

“Ventilation is the simplest solution – if at all possible, conduct welding outside. If this isn’t possible, make sure that the work area is as well ventilated as it can be. Along with keeping doors and windows open during work, you can also invest in specialised extraction arms and provide personal respiratory equipment to workers to further reduce the fume risk.

“It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings – avoid welding near flammable materials and surfaces if you can; this can include inflammable containers like gas tanks, or combustible materials like hay and straw. If you have to make repairs inside a wooden barn, for example, consider using nuts and bolts instead. If this won’t work, remove all flammable materials from the area before starting.”

Workspace, equipment, training

Ultimately, a combination of prevention measures is best for reducing the risks of welding fumes, and providing proper employee training, personal protective equipment and a well-ventilated workspace on the farm is the safest.

“While welding training and equipment can be costly, in the long term this is preferable to the even greater costs that could come from employee injuries or claims stemming from poor welding practice”, adds Dominic.

Cornish Mutual partners with CXCS, who specialise in agricultural health and safety and can help you to complete risk assessments for your farm or workplace.

Click for more advice on farm safety.