Diving into the Details: Gas Handling Protocols for Safe Underwater Welding





Diving into the Details: Gas Handling Protocols for Safe Underwater Welding

Underwater welding is as dangerous as it is crucial. Aspiring underwater welders require several years of training before being put on the job. This is because of the high risks of electrocution, drowning, and underwater explosions that come with it.

And that’s not all. When underwater welding is carried out without proper precautions, it can also negatively impact the marine ecosystem. Gases and waste that are not correctly contained pose a serious environmental threat.

To avoid such disasters, welders are expected to adhere to strict protocols when handling gas underwater. 

Let’s take a closer look at the role gases play in the process, as well as the precautions welders are expected to take.

The Role of Gases in Underwater Welding  

Gases are commonly used in both wet and dry underwater welding.

Dry welding, which takes place in a hyperbaric chamber, requires the use of inert gases. A blend of oxygen and helium is generally used to protect the welder and improve the weld’s quality.

Meanwhile, shielding gases are used in wet welding, a process that takes place without a hyperbaric chamber. When working with an electric arc welding rod, welders release gases like hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide, which could pose a threat.

Gas Handling Precautions for Safe Underwater Welding

The first precaution an underwater welder must take is carefully inspecting their apparatus before diving in. An incorrect concentration of oxygen puts them at a risk of oxygen toxicity, which can result in nausea, vertigo, and tunnel vision.

Similarly, a faulty compressor in the apparatus can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which could also potentially lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.

The second, more prevalent, threat to deal with is underwater explosions.

Gases produced by underwater welding are rich in oxygen and hydrogen, which can explode when trapped and ignited. To prevent this, here are some precautions a welder must follow, as outlined by the U.S. Navy Cutting and Welding Manual:

  • In case of the presence of a trapped explosive gas mixture, welders may have to drill holes in certain locations to allow gases to escape. Alternatively, welders must purge the compartment with a gas that does not support combustion.
  • Before beginning work, vent any area that could potentially trap gas.
  • When working with thick material, welders should start cutting from the highest point and then work their way down.
  • Gases must be vented to the surface with a flex hose. 

Furthermore, welders must ensure that all gases are stored in appropriate cylinders and fitted with the necessary safety features. They must also pay attention to any malfunctions or leaks in the supply while continuously monitoring gas levels.

Forge Forward Safely with nexAir’s KnowHow

Without the right KnowHow, underwater welders put themselves at constant risk. It’s no wonder this form of welding is considered one of the world’s most dangerous professions.

As one of the leading suppliers of industrial gas across the Southeast, no one understands this better than nexAir. For over 80 years, we’ve helped welders Forge Forward, making both safety and productivity a priority. 


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