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The Case of the Scorched Student

Classroom Welding BoothsThe Problem:

At the time of the personal injury incident, the student adult welder was attending an accredited welding program at a local community college.  During the course of the program, each student performed a variety of welding tasks to properly learn to weld in various positions.  Welding students were supervised at all times by experienced instructors who were AWS-CWIs.  Students were instructed to wear 100% cotton, long-sleeve welding uniforms while welding. Every morning there was a welding safety class for students.  While welding in class, the injured student’s undershirt caught fire and he was severely burned.

Improper Welding Apparel & PPEMy Assessment:

The student welder wore a 100% polyester undershirt beneath the 100% cotton protective welding uniform as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while welding. The student acted in a careless manner, with flagrant disregard for safety and wearing PPE.  It was determined that arcs and sparks from an adjacent welder ignited the student’s undershirt.  Horseplay by classmates was not ruled out.  The college program provided reliable information to the student about fire hazards; wearing appropriate apparel; and what clothing to avoid.  Both instructors provided a safety training and the student received warnings, demonstrations, and reinforcement about fire safety, PPE, clothing rules and policies while welding.

Proper Welding Apparel & PPEThe Consequences:

The injured student suffered severe and debilitating burns to his neck, back and arms.  To avoid burns and injuries, adult welding students must individually make the choice to abide by the warnings and instructions to avoid personal injury from improper undergarment fabrics at all times, as well to avoid welding arcs and sparks from adjacent welders should these hazards occur. 

The Lessons Learned: 

Both instructors trained and supervised the students about the importance of wearing proper apparel when welding. They specifically addressed PPE and no polyester undershirts.  The instructors, text, syllabus, lectures, and warnings were reasonable, customary and suitable for the novice welding student who was exposed to, performed or encountered welding arcs and sparks.   Horseplay and wearing any polyester clothing while welding can easily result in serious burn injuries.

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Welding Failures I Have Known, Interesting cautionary tales from Metals & Welding  expert, Dr Jesse A Grantham, PE