Gas welding is a very popular form of welding. It's versatile, easy to move equipment makes it simple to do and even better, it is inexpensive. While all welders know that there are many injuries and some fatalities every year from accidents involving gas welding, not all of them take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Explosions are a real safety concern in gas welding.
There are several things that can cause an explosion when a welder is working with gas welding equipment. Liquids and vapors can both be flammable, and things like petrol, fuel oil, paints, diesel, solvents, lacquer, cleaning agents, and solvents are all often found in many work places. If a welder is not paying close enough attention or becomes distracted, then a burner or blowpipe that is used or place too near a tank or drum that has these liquids – or even the vapors – can be injured in an explosion. They could even be killed.
It is important to remember that vapors and residue that is left in tanks and drums is just as deadly as the actual liquid. Residue can be left in seams, on the bottom of tanks and drums, and in crevices. If there is enough residue left to make a teaspoon of liquid, it is enough to cause an explosion when it becomes vapor as it is heated. A thorough cleaning should be done to remove all possibility of residues, vapors, and liquids. Never use a gas blowpipe on a tank or drum unless you know for sure that it is completely safe.
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Another kind of explosion occurs when the wheels that tires are fitted to are welded. Many of the wheels have oil or a lubricating fluid on the inner rim. When the heat from a blowpipe or cutting torch heats this liquid, it becomes a vapor. The vapor can be trapped by the tire and will build up enough to cause an explosion if it becomes heated. Explosions of this sort are very violent and can cause severe injuries and even death. It is therefore vital that you always remember to remove the tire before you begin to work.
Gas leaks can also cause explosions. Acetylene and other gases used for fuel are extremely flammable and when mixed with oxygen and air make explosive mixtures. A tiny leak can have very severe consequences, especially if that leak is occurring in a room that is not ventilated properly or if it is in a small, confined space where the gases accumulate. These leaks can cause flash fires as well as explosions.
Usually gas leaks are caused by not closing all of the valves properly, badly maintained or damaged equipment such as hoses, valves, blowpipes, and gas control or by poor connections. To avoid gas leaks – and thus explosions – always make sure that hoses are not where they can be run over by any kind of vehicle or where they can be damaged by abrasive surfaces or sharp edges. Spatter and hot metal should never be allowed to fall on hoses. All cylinders need to be carefully handled, kept upright, and fastened so they can't fall. When finished, gas supplies should be turned off at the cylinder and all equipment should be maintained in good condition. Also remember to check regularly for leaks and faults.
Basic safety measures can help protect both you and those around you from explosions. It is worth it to keep these measures in mind and avoid carelessness so that your welding career can be a long, successful one. With care, it can also be a safe one.