Underwater Welding Accidents

Underwater Welding Accidents

 Underwater welding is known as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and that’s because underwater welding accidents can happen anytime. If you are to consider the risks that are involved in welding accidents, what more if you do welding underwater? Obviously, the risks become more serious by combining two jobs that have their own safety risks. The fact that no amount of training, cautions and experience can ensure your safety while underwater, there will always be underwater welding hazards that may put your health or even life in danger.

 On the other hand, some people are blaming underwater welders who experience accidents for being careless and not following safety protocol thus have initiated underwater welding dangers that have caused them disabilities, permanent injuries and death. Yet, however we look at it, diver welders being held up by lots of cables connecting them to batteries and oxygen tanks can literally become vulnerable to accidents.  So it is not only the welders to blame but also those who are letting their divers use equipment and gears that are not totally safe for maritime welding. 

But let’s be honest. No one would be eager to take a high-risk occupation like underwater welding without considering any underwater welding risk. Underwater welders know that once they get submerged the potential dangers could meet them square in the face. There could be risks of electrocution, drowning, and decompression sickness. All these have the tendencies to add to the number of underwater welding death rates being recorded every year.

Is Welding Underwater

Danger at work means anything bad could happen to you while at work. It could be by accidents or it could be contributed by your environment, the things around you and even the things that must support you. In the case of underwater welding, everything around you could bring forth some risks and put you in a dangerous situation. So is underwater welding dangerous? 

Yes, for a lot of possibilities. Let me give you a scenario. You are working alone or with a teammate who is watching over you. You are both in a dark, cold and wet environment while you are using the torch that is loaded with 400 amps of electricity. Then suddenly the ground fault interrupter got pulled out due to an accident. Ultimately, this could put you at risk of getting electrically shocked.  Unfortunately, it will only take a few seconds before you could lose consciousness once you get electrocuted underwater. 

In another scenario, if the cables that are connected to you got entangled due to strong current, these can also mess up your oxygen hose and restrict the flow of oxygen into your lungs. Underwater welding cables are thick, hard and heavily insulated which makes them hard to untangle. If you are not a professional welder driver, running out of air can make you panic and your tendency is to pull out the cables and hoses that are connected to you to be able to swim up. And this is how even the professional welder drivers can experience such underwater welding accidents and cause them to lose their lives. 

Underwater Welding Risk

You know you could be at risk once you venture into an environment that is not familiar to you like in the midst of an ocean or under a dam. So it is not only by electrocution that adds to the risks with your profession. For inland underwater welders, who deal with the repairing of joints and cracks or installing huge pipes on dikes and dams, they are usually faced with underwater welding dangers like “differential pressure”.  

Differential pressure is the convergence of water that comes from different natural bodies of water and carrying high volumes of water with heavy pressure. When a welder diver gets caught in these torrential currents due to floods or wall breakage, for example, this could be another underwater welding risk that could endanger the life of the welder.

Offshore underwater welding professionals who do their jobs mostly on marine vessels and oil rigs can also face various dilemmas underwater. For example, during a storm in the sea, although the water on the surface seemed to be moving with force, divers underwater can also feel the turbulence so they must also move along with the movement of the vessels they are working on. Unfortunately, they can also be swept away from their position due to strong water movements. And with the swaying of cables and hoses, this could also trigger underwater welding accidents like cable disengagement or entanglement.   

Other Welding Dangers That Could

Other risks that underwater welders may encounter as they go deeper would be hypothermia. When your body loses heat below 35 degrees centigrade due to the freezing environment your blood circulation slows down and you can experience nausea, dizziness and can even affect the beating of the heart. Hypothermia is a very dangerous condition among underwater welders which the people supporting the divers don’t know can happen.   

In the world of maritime management, if there’s no call for emergency repairs like damage on the hull, welding is usually done in winter and on the dock. This is to avoid getting harassed by strong wind during typhoon season while repair on the sea is underway. However, the freezing water on the bay can also adversely affect the movement of the welders as well as the result of their welding during winter. This scenario can also contribute to the underwater welding risk that a welder can experience. Truth is, any season as long as there is the need for repairs or metal pieces installation underwater, the underwater welders must do their work.  

There is also the decompression sickness that welder divers must be aware of. Decompression sickness or “bends” is the formation of bubbles in the blood when divers go deep underwater and the nitrogen in their blood produces bubbles due to high water pressure. Bends can affect the neurological and nervous system of a person and he may experience joint pain, dizziness, fatigue, slight paralysis and difficulty in cognitive functions. When a person gets the bends, it could take weeks before the person’s bodily function could stabilize. 

Underwater Welding Hazards

Dangers underwater are in a way a bit different than underwater hazards. Hazards are things or events that could trigger danger and usually can cause accidents. Danger, on the other hand, can indicate a risky situation regardless of its size. If you are an underwater welder, the hazards that you may encounter can be chemicals, heavy metal objects, electricity, high-pressure environment, and also marine life. But how do these can contribute to the underwater welding dangers that these professionals must deal with? 

If we talk about the combination of atoms with regards to possible explosion underwater during welding, this could really happen. Water has hydrogen molecules while you use gas to produce arc in your torch. When hydrogen and oxygen mix together, this can produce gas pockets. And if these pockets of gas get ignited, this can cause an explosion. So water in combination with oxygen is one of the underwater welding hazards that can happen underwater. 

Another hazard that we have mentioned is the high-pressure environment when underwater. Because inside our bodies are lots of air, once you go into a pressurized environment, this squeezes the air inside your body and affects your organs. And this is why many diver welders have temporary or  permanent hearing loss including lung damage. Lastly, even the marine life can also pose hazards to the divers. For example, because welders use flashlights to see things around, they can attract plankton which can eventually attract fish. With animals blocking the welder’s vision, this can also bring about potential hazards.

Welding Work

Underwater welders are now considered some of the most skilled professionals not only in the welding world but also in the maritime industry. And it is not only education and training that made them experts in their own field but also lots of years of experience both in diving and underwater training. These qualities enable them to earn careers that are unique though quite risky. As such, the pay scale for underwater welders would be tantamount to their skills, expertise and experience. But overall, their standard pay is usually higher compared to other skilled workers who work on the land. 

But in spite of the underwater welding hazards, a lot of schools are now offering more specialized training and education both in diving and underwater welding because these workers will always be badly needed by maritime industries. After training and education are completed, the welder divers will also need to be trained both in the offshore and inland welding. 

When it comes to underwater welding hours, offshore underwater welders commonly have an intense schedule like 80-hour workweeks while the inland diver welders will work usually on small projects and on a shorter time. Or sometimes the inland diver welders get more working hours because of new projects. In essence, both can earn ranging from $40,000-$80,000 per year depending on the gravity of damage and the duration for the repair or installation requirements of their projects. 

Conclusion:

Considering that there are a lot of underwater welding hazards that accompany welders due to the nature of their work,  it becomes usual that underwater welding accidents happen. Based on the previous studies, accidents can also happen not only from the environment that diver workers are exposed to but from the things that are involved with their work. 

First, it could be the failure of those who employ people who lack experience and training in underwater welding. Second, the tools and equipment being used are not designed for underwater use. Third, most of the monitoring devices that must support the divers are quite old and need to be updated. And lastly, the diver welders are not totally protected by our laws so there are no standard guidelines that employers must follow.  

Moreover, there is still the need for the government to come up with standardized procedures to keep the welder divers safe because obviously, with the lack of data in spite of the obvious dangers of underwater welding, the government right now has no intention of  intensifying protective measures for these skilled workers. Therefore, if ever they meet underwater welding accidents due to these failures, they have no choice but to seek legal aid from private law agencies.

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