Brazing and Soldering Safety January 17 2015
Working with industrial gases can be a dangerous proposition. When using torches, whether Oxy/Acetylene or Air/Acetylene or any other flammable gas mixture, great care needs to be taken. Air/Acetylene torches burn at approximately 2700 degrees Fahrenheit and Oxy/Acetylene outfits’ burn at approximately 5000 degrees. As you can see from the chart below, according to NFPA the incidents of accidents caused by torches are quite extensive. Each year, millions in property damage, hundreds of injuries and even death!!
Brazing and Soldering Safety Executive Summary
The U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 5,230 structure fires per year involving torches, burners, and soldering equipment between 2006 and 2010. These fires caused average annual losses of 10 civilian deaths, 210 civilian injuries, and $255 million in direct property damage each year. Of these fires, 3,140 occurred in properties other than homes, and 2,090 occurred in homes.
What this chart doesn’t tell you is that MOST of these fires are preventable. A common sense approach to any job involving flammables is the first rule of safety!! Make sure that the acetylene torches you use are in good working order. This maybe the most important aspect of preventing accidents. Faulty, leaking or old hoses are the number 1 source of accidents involving torches. If your acetylene hose is old or does not have spring ends, replace them. When brazing, do not throttle back on your tip. Anyone who has seen his tip glow “cherry red” is not using their torch properly and is inviting an accident to occur. The use of flame retardant blankets is another example of being a responsible and safe torch operator. Some contractors and lay people use smoke pipe or tin as a buffer between the material they are using and the combustible material they need to protect. Smoke pipe and tin get hot!! They do not give the proper protection needed in most applications. A flame shield or blanket is the best and safest way to prevent accidents from occurring. Flame shields, spring ended hoses and torch equipment in general can be found at www.ascotorch.com
The next issue is having a proper work station. When using torches, make sure that the tank / tanks are secure. Tanks that are not secure can fall over and damage either the valve or the hose, causing a fire. Always keep a fire extinguisher handy in case a fire does start. Keep any combustible material away from the work station; (rags, wood, cardboard boxes) don’t keep anything around that can distract you (radios, I pods or even cell phones) and of course do not smoke around ANY industrial gas tank. Don’t use lighters when firing up your outfit. Spark lighters work better and are inherently safer. Don’t bring torch outfits into a home or business until you are ready to use them and then remove them immediately after you are finished.
These steps may seem obvious or inconsequential but gauging by the statistics, there is nothing obvious or inconsequential about safety when it comes to industrial gases and the use of torches.