Recent Incidents put the Spotlight on Safety

Roaring flames, twisted metal, and soot covered ceilings bowing precariously to the floor. This sounds like the set of an upcoming action flick, but it’s actually the very real outcome of an explosion at a welding and grinding company in McCook, Illinois this past Friday night. Though April wasn’t a very good month in the news, this story actually ends on a positive note. Everyone involved is safe. The only question that remains is: what happened? The flames have been quelled and the smoke has been aired, but it is still too dangerous for anyone, including inspectors, to enter the compromised building. Between this and the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion earlier this month, the subject of safety is certainly in the crosshairs of many, particularly those affected by these incidents.

According to CBS Chicago, a McCook Police Chief noted that petroleum products are used during the processes conducted within the warehouse. This is to be expected from any grinding company. With the types of chemicals and fuels used during production in this industry, as well as many others, ensuring safety is simultaneously imperative and tricky. So how do we riddle out this double-edged conundrum? With safety precautions and procedures instilled at plants and shops nationwide, what else can be done to try and discourage a rehash of recent history? These are both very important questions to which many people are currently seeking answers. While a concrete answer does not exist as yet, there are factors that everyone should bear in mind when considering safety. Let’s go over a few.

Knowing the Danger

Safety procedures should be put in place not only for processes, but also for the storage and proper handling of equipment and fuels. Fortunately, no one was harmed in this particular instance, but this may not always be the case. Though some rules may seem frivolous and you may believe that, as an experienced welder, the rules don’t apply to you but rather to a welding novice, it is important to adhere to these safety procedures anyway.

Protecting Yourself from the Danger

Arm yourself physically and mentally when entering a working environment. This means making sure to wear all necessary protective equipment. It also means being on the defense as well as offense. While steps are taken to ensure safety, keep your guard up and be vigilant as to what is going on around you. While working, a welder does not always have a 360 degree view of what’s going on around them or even on the other side of their work piece. If you have a vantage point that another welder does not, you may be able to see some degree of impending danger. Being alert will allow you the opportunity to avert a dangerous situation that may arise from this. Also, inspection of the machines and equipment used every day is imperative. This avoids the possibility of a worker using a defective tool that may cause harm to themselves, others around them, or the building as a whole.

Becoming More Knowledgeable

Becoming more knowledgeable on the safety procedures needed during welding and fabrication is one thing. Becoming more knowledgeable on the exact reason and science behind why things happen is another. Knowing what not to do and when not to do it discourages accidents, but what about the precautions that fall outside of the standard “wear your gloves” and “don your helmet”? For example, knowing that fuel needs to be stored safely in a container does not negate the importance of knowing the corrosive properties of the material the container is made of. It goes without saying that spilt fuel on a shop floor while no one is around is something that should be avoided at all costs.

For more information on the subject of safety, including safety details as it applies to different processes, check out our Safety in Welding course. This seminar covers such concerns as welding hazards and safety equipment, the importance of proper ventilation, the measures to take when welding in confined spaces, as well as safety precautions and other specifications.

Alicia Garcia