Underwater welding requires extensive training and specialized skills. Being a dangerous career, the job offers the most attractive salaries. However, despite the dangers, many take on this lucrative career opportunity. They work in construction, surveying and repair. They frequently work on offshore oil rigs and pipelines. Underwater welders face certain risks each time they are on the job. Some of them are potentially fatal, while others can cause long-term health problems. So below are some of the underwater welding dangers involved in this job.
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Underwater Welding Risks
One of the biggest threats to underwater welders is electrocution. Water has little resistance against the water and so it can easily go through it if left unguarded. It can happen if welding equipment is not adapted for work under the water. Proper equipment should be insulated and come with a waterproof electrode. All the essential equipment should be tested prior to use.
Also, in fresh water, the arc tends to be erratic and unstable, requiring experience from the welder of firmly securing the weld. Otherwise, there’s a great risk of electric shock to the welder.
The combination of hydrogen and oxygen can result in the formation of numerous gas pockets. If ignited, these gas pockets can lead to lethal explosions.
During wet welding, if you hear a small popping sound, it’s probably the hydrogen and oxygen bubbles collecting. In this case, you should immediately stop welding and locate the place where these gases are collecting.
This condition can occur if the diver ascends too quickly from high pressure zone to low pressure zone. It results in nitrogen bubbles entering the bloodstream of the person. These bubbles, spreading through the diver’s body, can cause numerous adverse symptoms. It can lead to rashes, joint pain, paralysis or even in some cases death.
Even the most experienced underwater welders face the risk of drowning. It can happen even with all the proper equipment. It’s usually the result of old or ill-maintained equipment, such as your mask, hose or oxygen tank. Another possible danger is getting tangled in underwater obstacles or in the lines of your own equipment. Especially, since the deeper you go, the harder it is to see.
So before diving always check your equipment to make sure that nothing is broken and that everything is working properly. Also, make sure that you have a full air supply tank.
The temperature under the water can get very cold, which conducts heat away from the body. Extreme loss of heat if the diver remains in the cold water too long, can metabolism issues or even organ failure. That’s why it’s important to have a well-insulated rubber wetsuit for protection against extreme temperatures.
Spending a lot of time in a high pressure environment can result in temporary and permanent hearing impairment. This can also cause lung and ear damage.
The light from welding can attract plankton, which in turn, can attract fish. While not a common risk, they can get in the way of the welder’s work. The resulting delay can cause other potential risks.
Why Do People Choose To Take These Risks?
Many welders find this career path enticing and challenging at the same time. Moreover, this type of welding process is essential to many industries all over the world. This means a high demand for skilled underwater welders. Currently, there are no technologies that can complete these jobs without humans. On top of that, underwater welders can earn significant salaries, which are not available to typical welders.
To become an underwater welder, you must first complete specialized training for both welding in these specific conditions and diving. During these trainings, welders also learn about all the safety protocols that they need to follow during their work.
Underwater welders must also be physically fit. Many companies even require their workers to get “fit for duty” certification as evidence that they are in good health. It can also be done throughout the employment. It’s a great way to make sure that the welder is up to the physical tasks of the job.
Underwater welders never dive alone. It’s one of the main scuba diving rules. Many companies also use decompression chambers that gradually descend and ascend the welders. This helps to avoid the bends.
Underwater welding involves working with large equipment in often hazardous environments. So it’s not a surprise that it involves a lot of risks. However, it’s a great opportunity for welders to get lucrative pay. They can get work in inland or offshore locations. Inland jobs can involve working on dams, vessels and bridges. They usually get less pay in comparison to offshore underwater welders, but they also operate on a less demanding schedule. Offshore welders mostly work on oil rigs and large ships. They can expect to make bigger bucks, but it will also require spending a lot of time at sea and working long weeks.