When it comes to welding, specifically within the welding industry, workplace safety is paramount. Unlike other metals, welding aluminium comes with a number of distinctive challenges because of its unique properties.
Due to these characteristics, welding aluminium requires extra precaution to ensure a safe working environment.
As a leading aluminium supplier in the UK, it’s crucial that at Aluminium Online, we continue to pave the way to guarantee a safer environment, setting the industry standard for aluminium welding. To browse our full range of aluminium products, click here.
Before jumping straight into welding, for example, an aluminium beam, it’s important to first understand how and why it differs from other metals.
Firstly, aluminium has a low melting point and is also known as a good thermal conductor. This results in the appearance not changing when heat is applied; it can be difficult to discern cold metal from hot when welding aluminium from this.
These two defining physical properties create a more challenging welding process than with other types of metal.
Aluminium is also a highly reflective metal. Whether welding an aluminium round tube, bar, or beam, it’s important to understand that radiated light is a common issue with aluminium. Because of its high reflectivity, no matter the shape of the weld, aluminium poses a threat when it comes to light-related injuries.
Finally, it’s also highly reactive with oxygen which causes a rust layer to form with ease. This layer attaches to the surface of the metal instead of peeling away. This gives aluminium corrosion resistance but also heavily interferes with the welding process.
This oxidised layer can also have adverse effects during the welding process as it possesses a higher melting point than aluminium.
As mentioned, aluminium can oxidise quickly. This forms a white, powdery layer directly on the surface that can interfere with welding. It’s therefore imperative that this layer is removed before welding begins.
A stainless-steel wire brush is often recommended, as it results in a clean surface if the brush was not previously used on steel.
By brushing in a single direction, the oxidised layer is not rubbed into the aluminium. Filings and dust that may be left over from cutting the aluminium into tubing or bars, should also be cleaned away as they can catch fire whilst welding.
Once the aluminium is clean and dry, it is then safe to begin welding.
Safety When Welding Aluminium
There are several helpful safety tips that should be adhered to when welding aluminium. However, it’s vital to first ensure that you have the proper equipment:
- A welding mask, goggles, or helmet
- Gloves and overalls
- Leather shoes or boots
Welding mask or goggles
As aluminium is a highly reflective metal, radiated light is a common concern when welding. Ensuring that you’re equipped with a welding mask, appropriate goggles, or even a helmet can help protect your eyes, reducing the risk of light related injuries.
Safety gloves & respirators
Due to the heat challenges presented by welding aluminium, it’s paramount that you are also equipped with appropriate leather gloves, whether you’re handling aluminium square bars, tubing, or other welds. Respirators are also highly recommended to guarantee that any fumes are not inhaled during long periods when spent welding.
Leather shoes or boots
Wearing leather shoes or boots will help protect your feet from any molten metal that may occur and drip off during the process.
As a leading supplier of aluminium, it’s important that we ensure the correct safety precautions are followed, starting with the correct equipment. By shopping at Aluminium Online, you’re guaranteeing the highest-quality product produced in the safest method.
Other safety tips
While also taking extra care when welding, it can be helpful to invest in other preventative measures to ensure staff safety.
Additional measures such as installing light-blocking curtains and supplying long-sleeved clothing or overalls can help minimize exposure to light related injuries and molten metal.
It is also recommended that you label recently completed weldments as ‘hot’ or create a dedicated storage space to further reduce the risk of injury.
Enforcing safety measures and regular checks across a facility can also help with keeping anyone welding aluminium safe.