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Portable Welders: Necessary, But Dangerous On The Farm

On many farms they are essential to keep equipment working, but on other farms they are death lurking at the end of a frayed cable. Portable welders kept in good condition and used properly, keep important equipment usable, and keep a farm running. But many farmers and farm workers have not only suffered debilitating shocks, but electrocution from welding equipment that is not maintained and should have been replaced long ago. Safe Electricity, a program of the Energy Education Council, strongly urges farmers to keep welding equipment in good repair as a matter of course.

A few summers ago, a Michigan farmer plugged in a welder to do repairs on a mower. The farmer used a 40-year-old welder with a broken off ground wire and had exposed wires in several areas. The mower became charged with electric energy from the welder, and the 43-year-old farmer was electrocuted.

To avoid tragedies like this one, Safe Electricity recommends maintaining equipment and personal protective equipment.

Grounding plugs should be functional, and groundless adapters should not be used. Welding cables and grounding clamps should be completely insulated. If the insulation shows signs of wear, the cables should be repaired or replaced. The cost of maintaining equipment is a fraction of the cost of being out of work because of a preventable accident, or the price a family pays when a loved one passes away in an accident.

Safe work procedures need to be developed for welding, such as using extended reach cables if the welder cannot be placed adjacent to the worksite. Connect the grounding clamp as close as possible to the area being welded, and ensure it is in good condition, as well as the grip for the electrode

Properly sized ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), which shut off power instantly if there’s a problem, should be used.