Welding Articles

Underwater Welding Guide - Techniques & Safety Tips

Dec 17, 2023

Underwater Welding Guide - Techniques & Safety Tips

As a welder, you are no stranger to a variety of challenges such as uncomfortable positions, long hours in the sun, and physical labor. However, if you are an underwater welder, you face a different set of difficulties. Working with water adds an extra layer of complexity to the job, making it more intensive and demanding.

You may have already seen viral videos of underwater welding on social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok. This specialized form of welding is essential for repairing and constructing structures at sea, such as oil rigs. In this article, you will learn more about the world of underwater welding and the unique challenges it presents.

How Does Underwater Welding Work?

Underwater welding, or hyperbaric welding, is a specialized and demanding skill involving welding at high pressures, either directly in water (wet welding) or within a pressurized, dry enclosure (dry welding). It's typically part of broader job responsibilities rather than a standalone profession.

Prior land-based welding experience is crucial for underwater welders. A key difference in underwater welding is the "self-consuming" method used, lacking arc length. This process requires striking up without an arc, applying pressure to the welding rod, and maintaining specific angles for effective welding. The rods are usually coated with lacquer or wax to protect the flux.

Various techniques are employed in underwater welding, such as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), and plasma arc welding (PAW), depending on the job's requirements.

Underwater Welding Training and Certification

Underwater welders must complete rigorous training and certification, utilizing specialized equipment like surface-supplied diving gear and specific welding and cutting tools. This type of welding is crucial in marine construction, ship repair, offshore industries, pipeline work, bridge construction, and more. It's often used for maintenance and repair on structures like oil rigs and ships, as well as for deep-water construction tasks.

Skill in nondestructive testing is also vital to ensure weld quality. The American Welding Society (AWS) has set the AWS D3.6M welding code to uphold high quality and safety standards in underwater welding. For those interested in this field, substantial welding experience, extensive training, and certification are necessary to become proficient and contribute significantly to global infrastructure maintenance.

Underwater Welding Risks and Safety Precautions

Underwater welding is a challenging and demanding job that comes with its own set of risks. The dangers of underwater welding include electric shock, decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, drowning, hearing loss, hypothermia, and more. To ensure the safety of the welder, it is essential to take safety precautions seriously.

One of the main risks associated with underwater welding is electric shock. To avoid this, welders need to wear latex gloves underneath their neoprene dive gloves. Welders also require a welding lens attachment for their dive helmet to protect their eyes from the intensity of the weld arc.

Another significant risk is the buildup of hydrogen gas. The gas needs to be vented properly from the welding area to prevent it from becoming dangerous. Welders should also be aware of the water pressure and limited visibility, which can make it difficult to see and move around.

To ensure the safety of the welder, it is essential to follow safety procedures and protocols. Welders should have all the necessary dive gear and equipment, including a diving suit and a hyperbaric chamber. They should also have proper training in utilizing breathing apparatus, decompression procedures, and emergency protocols.

Physical strain is another risk associated with underwater welding. Welders need to be physically fit and have good control over their breathing. They should also be aware of their surroundings and have situational awareness when welding underwater.

In summary, underwater welding comes with its own set of risks, and it is essential to take safety precautions seriously. Welders need to be aware of the dangers associated with underwater welding and follow safety procedures and protocols to ensure their safety. With the right mindset, training, and equipment, underwater welding can be performed safely and effectively.

Becoming Welder Certified

To become a certified underwater welder, specialized training and certification are required due to the technical nature of the work and potential risks involved. The Divers Institute of Technology is a training provider that offers specialized underwater welding training to prepare students for this line of work. The training covers techniques to properly vent gases and safely weld underwater. After completing the training, students can earn diving certifications and welding certifications. To work as an underwater welder, you will also need to become a certified commercial diver. You can enroll in a reputable commercial diving school to earn your commercial diving certification.

The Underwater Welding Rewards

If you're considering a career in underwater welding, it's important to know that it can be a personally rewarding job. Not only will you have the satisfaction of completing important tasks for customers, but you'll also have the opportunity to work in a unique and challenging environment. An underwater welding certification can also improve your employability and job security, as there is a high demand for skilled underwater welders in a variety of industries. Being able to call yourself an underwater welder is an accomplishment that sets you apart from other welders and opens up exciting career opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What equipment is essential for underwater welding?

Underwater welding requires specialized equipment that can withstand the harsh underwater environment. The essential equipment for underwater welding includes a diving helmet or mask, welding electrode, welding machine, and underwater welding cables. Other equipment includes a diving suit, diving gloves, diving boots, and underwater cutting tools.

How does underwater welding affect the human body?

Underwater welding can affect the human body in various ways. The most common effects include decompression sickness, hypothermia, and electric shock. Decompression sickness occurs when nitrogen bubbles form in the body due to rapid decompression, causing joint pain, dizziness, and fatigue. Hypothermia occurs due to the low temperature of the water and can lead to loss of consciousness and death. Electric shock can occur if the welder comes into contact with live electrical equipment.

What are the primary risks associated with underwater welding?

Underwater welding is a high-risk occupation due to the harsh underwater environment and the use of electrical equipment. The primary risks associated with underwater welding include electric shock, drowning, decompression sickness, hypothermia, and equipment failure. These risks can be mitigated by following proper safety procedures and using appropriate equipment.

What qualifications are required for a career in underwater welding?

To become an underwater welder, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. You must also complete a commercial diving course and obtain a commercial diving certification. Additionally, you must complete a welding course and obtain a welding certification. Many employers also require a certain amount of experience in both welding and diving.

What are the most common causes of accidents in underwater welding?

The most common causes of accidents in underwater welding are equipment failure, human error, and lack of proper training. Equipment failure can occur due to poor maintenance or manufacturing defects. Human error can occur due to fatigue, lack of concentration, or improper use of equipment. Lack of proper training can lead to accidents due to a lack of knowledge of safety procedures and equipment operation.

What type of training is necessary to become a certified underwater welder?

To become a certified underwater welder, you must complete a commercial diving course and obtain a commercial diving certification. Additionally, you must complete a welding course and obtain a welding certification. The training includes classroom instruction and hands-on experience in both welding and diving. The training also covers safety procedures, equipment operation, and emergency procedures.

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