Safety First: What You Need to Know About Aluminum Welding

As more and more companies tout their pristine accident records, workplace safety is becoming a hot topic in the welding industry. A recent article in the Welding Journal highlights general safety precautions and shines the spotlight on a very specific metal: aluminum. You see, aluminum welding is unlike other welding in a number of ways. Because of aluminum’s unique characteristics, extra precautions need to be taken to ensure a safe working environment. Here are some things you should keep in mind when welding aluminum:

1. Aluminum’s appearance does not change when heated. It’s much more difficult to discern cold material from hot material when welding aluminum. To further complicate matters, aluminum has roughly five times the thermal conductivity of steel. As a result, it’s recommended that you label recently completed weldments as “hot” and wear leather gloves  to reduce the risk of injury.

2. Aluminum welding can cause electrical shock. Aluminum weldments can result in electrical shock just like steel weldments – but for different reasons. In steel welding, a high-frequency arc starting option is initially employed and then eventually turned off. In aluminum welding, this option must remain active for the duration of the weld; in turn, the risk of electrical shock increases. A well-insulated welding system as well as proper grounding can help protect you in such cases.

3. Aluminum is highly reflective. Radiated light is a common concern when welding steel, but it can be especially problematic in aluminum welding. Because of its high reflectivity, aluminum poses a bigger threat when it comes to light-related injuries. Fortunately, measures such as light-blocking curtains and long-sleeved clothing can help minimize your exposure.

As you can see, aluminum welding does raise unique safety issues, but the proper precautions will ensure you stay safe and sound against these factors and others such as noise, fume emissions, explosions and cleaning liquids. For a more in-depth look at aluminum welding and associated safety concerns, check out the September 2013 issue of the Welding Journal. The Welding Journal is free with your AWS membership.

7 thoughts on “Safety First: What You Need to Know About Aluminum Welding”

  1. What are hazards associated with the smoke coming off the weld. The particulate in the air, is it hazardous to you health/lungs as with chromium to stainless welding?

    1. Aluminum welding fume should not be breathed to the maximum you can avoid it. I recommend a good P100 filtering face piece (dust mask) when you wed aluminum. The PEL for aluminum fume if 5 mg per cubic meter of air so clearly OSHA feels one should limit exposure. You can look up symptoms of over exposure on the internet. The other metal that is often associated with aluminum is Cadmium. My experience has been that even though suppliers provide documentation that their aluminum has none, our testing has detected cadmium dust in the aluminum welding areas and in dosimeter sampling. This is another good reason to wear a P100 respirator while welding aluminum. Cadmium is toxic and the PEL is only .02 mg per cubic meter of air. As with all things that may affect your health, it pays to be cautious and avoid breathing welding fumes no matter what you weld. You never really know what is in the stuff you are burning.

  2. most welders are unaware of the thing that aluminium welding can mostly cause electric shock. these things must be kept in our mind for better safety in welding.. thank you for the blog info

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