ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- According to the U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System and the National Fire Protection Association's annual Fire Experience Survey, local fire departments responded to an estimated 4,440 structure fires per year involving equipment associated with hot work from 2010-2014.

The NFPA says these fires caused an average of 12 civilian deaths, 208 civilian injuries and $287 million in direct property damage per year. Welding torches were involved in one-third of hot work structure fires.

Whenever you think of welding, most people envision oxygen/gas welding or electric welding.

Although these are the most common types of welding in the industry, one attribute of welding must always be considered -- safety.

Welders come in contact with extreme heat sources, molten metals as well as flammable, and sometimes hazardous, gases.

These are just a few of the hazards of the job and, sometimes, locations may contribute to these hazards.

Welders may work in confined spaces, in loud or noisy environments where hearing protection is required or in areas, or on certain metals, where respiratory protection is required.

Fire is always a hazard with any hot work or welding, especially in maintenance and repair facilities.

Because of that fire risk, welding and cutting operations must only be conducted in locations designated for that purpose and approved by Anniston Army Depot's Fire and Emergency Services Division, Safety Office and Industrial Hygiene Office.

The first action a welder should take prior to doing any type of welding work, is to inspect and clear the area.

Look for items which maybe combustible or may ignite from a stray spark or piece of hot, molten metal.

Ensure these items are moved a minimum of 35 feet away from the welding work area.

Anniston Army Depot employees have had three injuries in the past two years directly related to welding activities.

Two of the incidents were burns to the foot or ankle and the other occurred when a welding wire penetrated the welder's glove.

Welders also perform grinding operations on parts and there have been 10 injuries in the past two years related to the grinding processes.

Most of these were lacerations and particles to the eyes. This is why we stress the importance of using the right personal protective equipment for the job.

At Anniston Army Depot, welders must:
• Protect their head with a flame-proof skull cap and their face with a welder's helmet or shield.

• Wear appropriate eye protection for the type of welding that is being performed.
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133 has a table for equipment with filter lenses that have the correct shade number appropriate for the work being performed. These lenses must also meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1-2010 requirements.

• Use respirators to protect the lungs and prevent the welder from breathing hazardous fumes and oxides.

• Wear fire/flame-resistant clothing and aprons to protect exposed skin from heat, fires, burns and radiation. Pants should not have cuffs and coveralls should have flaps over pockets.

• Use ear muffs to protect hearing from noise. Welders must use fire resistant ear muffs to prevent sparks or splatter from entering the ear, rather than ear plugs.

• Wear steel-toed boots and fire/flame-resistant gloves to protect feet and hands from heat, burns, fire and electric shock.

Only qualified or certified personnel are allowed to operate welding equipment. Apprentices work under the direct supervision of a certified welder.

When other employees are in the vicinity of a welding operation, the welder must use a welding screen to block the operation and prevent injury to bystanders.

For additional information regarding welding safety, speak with your supervisor or contact the ANAD Safety Office at Ext. 7541.