I seem to recall someone once telling me “Health and Safety is everyone’s problem, or should that be responsibility”.
When we attend framebuilding and welding courses we take health and safety measures for granted. Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE, though I call it Personal Protective equipment, is provided and safety instructions administered. When at home it is only too easy to neglect the safety measures we know we should be following. We still have a duty of care to ourselves, family and neighbours for the potential consequences of our hobby.
Basic equipment should include Welding Gauntlets, welding apron (usually leather), eye protection, for both welding and metalworking tasks and some consideration to adequate ventilation. Fume extractors are expensive but some form of active ventilation of the work area is necessary.
The commonest injuries to welders and therefore likely framebuilders, seem to be burns and eye injuries. Acute flash injuries due to intense ultraviolet radiation is generally only seen in electric welding. However eye injuries from flying metal bodies from grinding, drilling, high speed sanding and the like are also common reasons for attending Accident and Emergency departments making eye protection vital in these circumstances. even the end of a needle file can break off and fly into your eye. A tiny metal foreign body at high speed can easily penetrate the eye and the consequences can be sight threatening, if you do think you have been struck with a metal foreign body in the eye you must attend A+E for assessment. Trust me, I used to be a doctor. The best type of eye protection is fully enclosed goggles to give sideways protection as well, flip up face masks are convenient and protect the rest of the face but do not give absolute protection to the eyes. Purists say if you wear a flip up mask you should wear close fitting spectacles underneath!
I usually burn myself on the wrist, hence the need for gauntlets rather than just gloves. Access to cold running water is ideal, otherwise having some burn gel handy in your first aid kit.
A Personal view on Eyewear for Brazing
Clear cut guidance on the type of eye protection for Oxy-fuel brazing seems hard to come by. The most definitive advice I can find is via the American Welding Society. For framebuilding courses we are usually offered protective dark glasses or face masks shades 3 to 5. I have come across professional framebuilders who admit not to wearing shaded eye protection either due to inconvenience or lack of necessity, so what are the risks? I checked my facts and got an insight from an ophthalmologist into the possible risks from gas torch use. Any flame over 3000°C will produce Ultraviolet light but it will be of the longer wavelength and therefore unlikely to cause acute corneal damage that is associated with electric welding (Arc eye) which is caused by short wavelength UV light. However gas flames do emit bright visible light which is associated with macular degeneration and infra red light which can cause cataracts with prolonged exposure, apparently suffered by glassblowers in the past. Cataracts and macular degeneration are of course common in the general population so it may be difficult to tell, if you develop them, whether it was anything to do with your hobby!
This means that you are perhaps at increased risks of longterm eye damage from close flame exposure but given the infrequency occasional framebuilders are likely to be exposed this is probably small. Professionals though are likely to be at more risk.
It seems sensible to accept that eye protection is required and that safety spectacles should be wrap around to protect the eye from sideways light and spatter from hot flux or metal
The American welding society guidance AWS_Z49, recommends shade 2 lenses for “Torch Soldering” and shade 3 or 4 for “Torch Brazing”, whilst for oxy-fuel gas welding of metals less than 3mm thick suggest shade 3 or 4, with darker shades for thicker metal. It also suggests you commence with a darker shade than you can comfortably see through and than reduce the shade if you cannot manage, not going below the recommended minimum of course.
The way I was taught to fillet braze enables me to just about manage with a shade 3, because of the closeness you come to the work. Similarly when trying gas welding I had even less difficulty due to the higher temperatures used and increased amount of light emitted from the hot metal as well as the torch flame. For lugs I admit to struggling with dark glasses to see what I am doing clearly and have been in the habit of wearing lighter shaded safety sunglasses. I justify this to myself by saying I am not that close to the flame or metal as I am with fillet brazing and experience less exposure, not concentrating as much on the torch flame. I will keep trying to use darker shades, but the important thing is to understand the risks.
Safety guidelines suggest the availability of a decent sized fire extinguisher, powder type, and fire blanket is necessary.
You can print your own safety notices using this online tool:
As you may not always be at home in the event of an emergency it is useful to leave information available to others, such as the fire service!
Leaflet contains list of flammable and toxic substances and their position in the building.