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Can a Welder Shock or Electrocute YOU?

Danger welding

It is perfectly natural for anyone to be nervous by welding in the beginning. I remember how excited and petrified I was the first time I was about to start my weld. The good news is that the risk to reward ratio is pretty high and if you follow the safety measures you don’t need to be petrified about hurting yourself. What a lot of people do wrong, in the beginning, is skip on the safety tutorials and jump straight to the actual welding. This is the biggest mistake you can make and your chances of getting electric shocks increases by a lot if you don’t know the safety measures at all.

Although it is true that you can get an electric shock while handling welding equipment, you don’t need to worry about it if you are taking all the precautions like making sure the surface and clothes you are wearing during the weld are dry, making sure the equipment and cables are in good condition, etc. Electricity is not something you want to play around with, so if for some reason you do get electrocuted, you should have yourself checked by a doctor.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the dos and don’ts of welding. I highly recommend watching the video by Lincoln Electrics at the end of the article after you’ve read everything.

CAN A WELDER ELCTROCUTE YOU?

The straight answer is yes, you can get shocked while welding. This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t be careless while handling the equipment. Receiving a mild shock while welding does happen, even though it is rare. What is not as rare in my opinion is getting shocked caused by a broken cable powering the welder itself, or by faulty wiring inside of a welder which makes the case of a welder live.
Things happen in a welding shop, and it is relatively easy to cut into your power cable or extension cord with a piece of metal which guarantees a shock in wet or moist conditions if not fixed properly.

A lot of times when people get shocked it is because they are using faulty equipment or being careless with the safety precautions. The chances of getting shocked severely increase if you are welding in the rain or are wearing damp clothes.

So in short, always make sure that all the power cables and welding leads are intact when you start welding

WHY DON’T YOU USUALLY GET SHOCKED WHILE WELDING?

A lot of people wonder as to why more people don’t get shocked while welding. For someone not aware of the workings of electricity, it seems like everyone should be getting shocked. However, for a reason, this is not the case at all.

Electricity in general will always look for the easiest way to travel, that is, the path of least resistance. In most cases, your body standing on the earth actually has more resistance than the metal you are working on, and the electrodes, so when the circuit, if completed, the electricity takes the path through the metals rather than you.
This might not be the case if you are not wearing dry clothes, weld in the rain, or are wearing a piece of jewelry – Something to keep in mind.

CAN A SHOCK FROM A WELDER KILL YOU?

Although extremely rare, an electric shock while welding can cause fatality. You always have to remember that you are working with metals and electricity. Sometimes the amperage or the potential being used can be substantial and if something goes wrong can cause fatal electric shocks. More so, if you get an AC shock directly from the power cable of a welder. For regular home use, the AC current powering the welder ranges between 110 and 220 volts, which is, in any case, considered to be fatal.

HOW TO AVOID GETTING SHOCKED DURING WELDING?

As I mentioned above, electricity is always looking for the path of least resistance and you touching the ground (not ground cable) offers more resistance and that’s why you don’t get shocked while welding.

The first thing to keep in mind before even starting the weld is to make sure that all the equipment is in good condition. Starting with the stinger or electrode holder, inspect it from top to bottom and check for any signs of worn, cracks, or most importantly, missing insulations. Don’t wait for the damage on the stinger to become severe before replacing it. The same goes for cables. As a matter of fact, electrode holders and ground lead clamps should be changed at the first sign of damage.

The second thing to keep in mind is water. You might miss this point during the excitement of starting a weld but be aware of any water or liquids around you. Although water is not a good conductor of electricity, it is better than your body and direct contact with water can increase the chances of shocking you.

Be aware of any buckets of water or if the floor is wet, even damp clothes and sweat can cause electric shocks. Make sure that your welding clothes are dry.

Never touch the electrodes or the metal parts of the electrode holder directly or any exposed wire connecting the electrode holder to the machine.

Here is another article about welding in the rain & wet conditions I would suggest you read.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE HANDLING THE WELDER

The first thing you need to keep in mind while handling your welder is to keep it in a safe, dry place and make sure that it is plugged into a circuit with the correct sized breaker. Also, make sure to inspect the plug and the power cord for wear and tear.

If something is wrong with the welder and you decide to repair it yourself, don’t! It would be a good idea to take it to someone who is professional. Especially if you are new to the world of welding.
However, if you are going to try it anyway, performing repairs on a welding machine while it is plugged in, is a bad idea. You should not only turn the machine off but also unplug it completely to be safe. – This is really important.

On the same note, if you have to open the spool access doors to change the polarity or the spools, make sure to completely unplug the system before you start.

IS AC WELDING MORE DANGEROUS WHEN COMPARED TO DC?

DC welding may be safer than using AC, I read about this while researching that DC is not as likely to stop your heart when compared to AC due to the rapid switching of the polarity. The alternating current can send you heart into fibrillation. One of the other reasons why AC is more dangerous is that it can stop you from letting go of the source of electricity because your muscles contract more on AC. Although I don’t know the scientific efficacy of this fact, I thought it would be interesting to take a note of it.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WELDER SHOCKS YOU?

If you ever get shocked while handling the equipment or while welding, you should go to the hospital immediately. Afterwards, if you have been checked up by a doctor, look for a problem that caused the shock. For this as well, I would advise you to turn to a professional electrician to make sure you get the welder fixed properly.  

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

After going through all of this information, it can make you a bit nervous before starting your project. It is also common for people to have a lot of questions about the precautions and general FAQs. I will try to cover the most common questions that people usually ask after reading about this topic. I hope it answers your queries as well.

CAN I HOLD THE PIECE I AM WELDING?

You should always be careful around the metal piece or the base metal which you are welding. Make sure that your arms or your body are not leaning or touching the base metal during the process. To minimize the risk, you should wear proper safety clothes and welding gloves

CAN YOU TOUCH WELDING ROD WHILE WELDING?

Although welders do touch live electrodes, for tacking as an example, you should always hold the welding rods through their holders and not the metal directly. Always remember that welding rods are made up of metal and during welding, if you touch the metal part there is a high chance that you might get an electric shock, or burned because of the heat.

IS IT SAFE TO WELD IN THE RAIN?

As I mentioned earlier in the article that waters around you while dealing with electricity is a bad idea. If it is raining on the day you decided to start your project, it might be a good idea to shift the plans to another day – Should leave that part to professionals. Rain is one of the most common reasons for people getting electric shocks. As a hobbyist or a beginner, I do not see an adequate reason why you should want to weld in the rain, so better wait for better weather to work on your project.  

CONCLUSION

In a nutshell, yes, you can get an electric shock while welding but you don’t need to worry about getting electric shocks if you are careful and follow all the safety precautions. If you do get shocked for any reason, it is very important to visit a doctor. There can be a lot of reasons for people to get shocked like faulty equipment, being in contact with water, or touching any live metal surfaces while welding. If you take care of these factors, then the chances of you getting an electric shock will be extremely low.