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Underwater welding or hyperbaric welding is one of the well-paid welding jobs today. While a general welder earns anything from $11,000 to $30,000 per year, an underwater welder earns at least $25,000.
This high paying job involves grave underwater welding dangers. And it requires a few survival skills along with expertise in various welding techniques.
Regarded as one of the most dangerous blue-collar jobs, it has the highest on job mortality rate. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provided the only data available. The underwater death rate was forty times greater than other blue-collar jobs for the period from 1989 to 1997. This is about 15%, making it 1000 times more dangerous than an average law enforcement officer.
As per the estimate, five out of every 3000 underwater welders would die due to a marine welding accident.
What You Should Know About Underwater Welding Dangers
Is a higher payout, the sole motivation for one to pick Hyperbaric welding? And more importantly, what dangers make the profession so lucrative?
Most welders agree that Hyperbaric welding is the most lucrative option. Besides expert welding techniques, it requires one to be an excellent diver with a taste for adventure. According to many former professional underwater welders, these attributes are attractive. And continue to lure most professional welders into taking up Hyperbaric welding. As far as the dangers go, many experts feel that-:
- The general preconceptions
- The conditioning to never mix water with electricity while welding
- The complexity of the process
- The real physical dangers,
- Adds to the fear of the job.
Hyperbaric welding is only limited to oceans. And the sea is not a very attractive work area for most. The sea and the sea, together with the fear of depth and vastness, are scary. It only brings furious and mighty waves and even sharks to most minds.
Learn more about: is welding a good career?
Water and electricity can be fatal
Water and electricity do not go hand in hand. We learn never to mix water and electricity. Welders also follow this principle. They never let water near any electrical appliance. Combining the two can result in fatal accidents. But underwater welding is in contrast to this safety practice.
The science of hyperbaric welding is complex. The process involves complex theories and mechanics. This complexity deters many welders.
These factors add to the fear and the real physical dangers involved in the trade.
What are some of the real dangers of underwater welding?
Hyperbaric welding is a complex science. It involves advanced welding tools and appliances that need expert handling and adjustments. They need high input voltage and output amperage for operation. The process involves working with high-pressure gases. And a minute error or a technical snag during welding can be fatal.
Wet hyperbaric welding has the danger of electrocution. At the same time, Dry solder has high chances of explosion. This can result from an error in pressure level adjustments of gases.
Hyperbaric welding warrants deep-sea diving. It involves diving to great depths. Welders with the help of oxygen cylinders, diving suits, and underwater breathing apparatus, dive deep. These need cautious handling and monitoring. Any malfunction can be fatal.
Differential pressure areas forms underwater when large volumes of water rush to fill a low-pressure area. This shift in weight can drown the welder.
The pressure levels of inert gases inside the diver’s body increases. This is due to breathing through the apparatus. A swift ascent or descent can cause these gases to diffuse inside the body tissues, which can be fatal.
Hyperbaric welding can cause the breaking down of the dental amalgam of the welder. It is harmful to the dental health of the welder, producing a metallic taste inside the mouth.
The job requires enormous energy levels and strength. Over time it can take a toll on the welder’s muscles and nerves. It can cause muscular, nervous, and skeletal system damage.
The job requires high levels of concentration. The extended focus on the welding pool can be stressful and can affect the welder’s psychological makeup. It lowers the levels of hearing and sight, which results in deteriorating cognitive abilities.
High waves, fatigue, and entanglement can cause a welder to succumb to drowning. The undermining of distress signs while in pursuit of completing the task at hand can also lead to drowning.
Non-adherence to the scheduled surface breaks can result in hypothermia. The chances are high when the water is freezing or during a solo welding dive.
Yes, Hyperbaric welding with its long list of dangers is challenging.
Underwater Welding Accidents: Things You Didn’t Know
Hyperbaric welding is one of the most dangerous blue-collared jobs. The various challenges make it a high-risk situation. The most anticipated accidents on the job are as follows:
Wet hyperbaric welding has chances of short-circuiting and electrocution.
Mechanical malfunction or wrong pressure adjustments can lead to explosions.
Non-adherence to the recommended decompression procedure can be fatal. Underwater welders need surface breaks. This helps to treat and maintain the fluctuating pressure of inert gases inside the body. The scheduled breaks help the welder to avoid diver bends.
Hypothermia can set in very fast. Suppose a welder misses the initial warning signals. The high levels of concentration and stress while welding underwater can force the welder to stay inside the water.
Differential pressure areas form at great depth. Vast volumes of water rush in these areas to fill in and create a vortex that can drown a welder. The high waves and even entanglement of the gear to the welding equipment can drown the welder.
Underwater Welding Death Rates
The dangers involved in hyperbaric welding are many, and this high paying welding job is dangerous. But, the data available to substantiate this claim is outdated.
The only data available dates back to 1997. It shows the underwater welding death rate to be
15%. It means five out of 3000 active underwater welders die on the job.
This number can, at best, be considered a benchmark. Science and technology have taken great strides towards making underwater welding safer. During the past few decades, research and development have made significant progress in underwater welding.
Without a doubt, the continuous research and development in underwater welding today, has made it a much safer profession.
Is Underwater Welding Worth It for You?
The following factors are highlights of underwater welding as a profession:
- The average pays of $29.57 per hour,
- Scarcity of skilled underwater welders
- The ever-expanding scope in offshore welding
Thus, the prospects of underwater welding as a profession are bright!
Underwater welding is a high-performance job. It warrants great expertise in welding techniques and some diving skills. Thus, it’s unlikely for any welder to continue for a long time. This creates immense opportunities for upcoming young welders. Young welders are most preferred by all employers.
The young blood is easy to mold as per the requirements. With specialized training in the required areas, they can be an asset. They also have high levels of physical and mental endurance. Thus making a viable option for the employers.
The hard labor and the countless hours of underwater welding are rewarding. The valuable real-time experience is also a great asset. The experienced ones get accommodated in onshore projects and training assignments. Many make it to high managerial and supervisory positions. Thus, it’s worth a try!
How To Minimize Underwater Welding Risks?
Underwater welding is now a tad safer than the recent past. Continuous efforts are on to make underwater welding safer. Underwater welding adds to the expansive oil, mining, telecommunications, and other advanced industries.
Serious efforts are on, towards making the profession practical, accessible, and safer. A few measures to avoid hyperbaric welding risks are as follows;
- Advanced training: Getting the basics right is the first step. With in-depth scientific knowledge, one can be an asset. Mastering the process involved goes a long way in minimizing the job risks. Many professional welding institutes provide advanced training and certification in underwater welding.
- AWS certified welding: AWS certification courses are valuable. They provide the expertise and techniques required to be a successful welder. It ensures the laying of a reliable, professional foundation.
- High levels of mental and physical fitness: A healthy body and a sharp mind ensure safety. It can lower the risks involved. Physical strength and mental sharpness add to productivity. Improves quality and helps in overcoming adverse conditions on the job.
- Strict adherence to safety protocols: Strict adherence to the safety protocols lowers the risks of accidents. Following the safety measures reduces the chances of meeting an on-job accident.
Underwater welding is a high-pressure job that involves a fair amount of risks. But it is one of the most lucrative welding jobs.
With the right attitude, a piece of in-depth knowledge and an advanced training certificate, it can be a wise career choice!