From the very start, we have been learning that water is a good conductor of electricity.
Especially rainwater which has certain components that makes them different from distilled water.
But how come welders can weld underwater? Is welding in the rain really a problem?
In this post we are going to talk about that in detail along with:
- Is welding in the rain safe?
- Precautions you must take
- OSHO’s Guidelines
- Effect of Water on Welds
- And Other related FAQs
Is Welding In The Rain Safe?
Is welding in the rain safe? Many upcoming welders may have this question in mind just like do welders get drug tested?
Practically speaking, YES! It is absolutely safe to weld in the rain. It is neither illegal nor unsafe and even has OSHO guidelines to approve it.
However, this involves a great risk of electrocution and certain preventive measures must be taken to protect yourself. If you don’t know what you are doing, It is strictly advised to leave the project until the machines and the surroundings are dry or following the preventive measure given in this guide.
Being a welder myself for 20+ years, I have welded a few times in the rain. Was a little paranoid at first, but quickly found out that with good precautions and protective gear, welding in the rain is possible and safe.
The risk involved with welding in the rain is electrocution.
As you know water is a good conductor of electricity, with electricity in your surroundings it is easier for it to complete the circuit.
Which is not the case if you are dry. With water in your surroundings, you actually complete the circuit instead of the ground clamp, giving access to electricity to flow through you.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration has certain standards for every welding practice and machines.
We are going to look at those OSHO standards which particularly talk about welding equipment i.e. 29 CFR 1926.351, 1926.354, and 1926.406(c).
Yet, none of them prohibits the use of electric welding equipment or machines in wet weather.
However, as stated in the general duty clause standards, employees must have a safe work environment free from any forms of lethal hazards. Hence, the topic can be debated.
And workers in general who regularly come in contact with moisture are recognized as hazards. Thus, strict protective gear must be provided to all the employees who work in such situations.
For those who want to the point answer:
No, OSHO doesn’t prohibit anyone from welding in wet weather and is not illegal to do as well. Although the aftermath might be lethal due to the risk involved, thus proper protective gear is to be provided.
It all lies in the hands of the employers and personal preference, sometimes the company itself denies to work in such an environment due to the risks involved. On the other hand, some companies do not mind at all.
Despite not having any implications for welding in the rain from the legal authorities, it is still very dangerous.
Come on, we are talking about water and electricity. It is lethal.
Those of you who have done it can relate to me on the tingling sensation throughout your body until the process is completed.
And you get so relieved when it is over.
There can be multiple reasons for which you must have completed the job. And waiting till the rail is stopped in no wise solution to such a problem.
For such a situation, you must take some precautions to reduce the risk along with basic common sense and presence of mind.
The first reaction is to wear protective gear to protect you from the harms and also to keep you dry.
Any time of moisture is strictly unsafe for any welder, it is better to keep them away with proper attire which includes the following:
One of the most important protective gear is gloves. You must use thick gloves and notice if they are getting wet or not either from the rain or sweat(if you are working indoors or in humid weather).
Changing them when it gets wet is the best option to follow. You can use a dry cloth to clean the moisture off of it as well.
The perfect solution to halt the circuit from completion is done via boots which acts as an insulator.
However, if you stay in a puddle of water for a while, those can quickly become ineffective.
Similar to gloves and boots, Clothing is another thing to take care of. You must choose the welding cloth carefully which dries up quickly.
Or you can use an overcoat to protect yourself from getting in the first place.
Oxy Acetylene Welding
If you are familiar with the process of oxy-acetylene welding, welding in the rain just got a lot easier for you.
It is the only welding process that doesn’t use electricity and hence is the safest way to go.
The process utilizes a combination of oxygen gas and acetylene within a handheld torch. The flame created with this process is much less than the usual temperature of the arc.
Thus with such low-intense arcs i.e of 3200 Celsius, you may only require tinted goggles instead of the regular welding helmets or pancake welding hood.
Checking The Ground Clamps and Joints
The next step that you must take off is checking the ground clamps and the joints within your welding machines.
These are the main parts through which the electricity is passed. You don’t want to have any wear and tear, whose presence may result in getting shocked.
It is better to insulate it as soon as possible if you notice something.
Using a DC Voltage Source
This is my personal opinion and some of you might disagree with me on this, however, this is based on strict data.
The average AC voltage is almost five times more dangerous than the DC voltage. It might be better for you if you used a DC welding process.
Also if you are using a transformer welding machine, you have the ability to change its amperage and voltage according to your will.
Using Welding Accessories
If you have access to welding umbrellas or welding tents, it can be a real lifesaver.
They are the perfect shelters for you, your welding machines and the weld itself, by keeping your surroundings dry.
Thus, can be good investment if you regularly work in wet weather.
As the last precaution measure, moving indoors is the final resort if you are unsure how welding in the rain may play out.
If you have the choice of moving indoors and doing the work there, it will be much better as the risk associated with rain will be close to nil then.
If you are hobby welding working on your welding projects, it will be feasible for you to move back inside.
If you are having a big deadline to finish the project and can afford some time, you can always postpone the job and get back to it later when the downpour has stopped or until you are dry.
Risk For the Welding Machine and The Weld
Welding machines were invented to work in dry environments, any moisture in the inside of it can cause serious troubles.
Even slight humidity can cause some defects in the machine, with so many risks involved how is it even possible to use the machine in a heavy downpour?
Well, if you can’t postpone the work, it is better to place the machine on a piece of wood above the puddle of water within a solid roof or shelter made of wood or PVC.
If by hook or crook the machine is exposed to rain or moisture, turn off the machine and immediately try to clean it off or wait until it’s dry.
You don’t want to have moisture in the air in your work environment while welding, Since the presence of water can lead to welding porosity and welding cracks.
With the heavy downpour, it will be difficult to visibly check if the weld is good or bad.
Annealing can be done before using the metal for the welding process. It makes sure that the risk involved with water is put out.
One other problem with working in such weather is shielding gas, if you are working with any of the inert gases, such as Argon, it will be quite difficult to point it to certain point without any distortion.
With this post, I tried to explain how welding in the rain is possible and what precautions you must take before doing it.
Also, I emphasized the importance of oxy acetylene welding, and how is it perfect for wet weather.
Some pipe-welders and rail-welders and other similar welders are subjected to working in such harsh weather usually.
And sometimes the outcome might be lethal with such welding accidents in the workplace, hence for a newbie, it is strictly advised not to do so.