The Value of Comfort

By: Andy Monk

Andy Monk is new products manager, Bernard, Beecher, IL: 800/946-2281;

Friday, March 1, 2013

Select a welding gun that offers optimum comfort and, where required, the ability to complete challenging out-of-position welds. This will minimize straining and reduce the opportunity for fatigue or injury, increasing productivity and, ultimately, the profitability of the welding operation.
The term “ergonomics” has become increasingly common in the workplace as companies strive to improve worker safety and efficiency, whether in the office or on the plant floor. At its most basic level, ergonomics refers to the discipline or science of designing equipment and arranging the work environment for optimal worker comfort and productivity. The goals: minimize fatigue, reduce repetitive motion and decrease overall physical and mental stress.

For welders who spend their time maneuvering around difficult weld joints with a gas-metal-arc welding (GMAW) gun, flux-cored-arc or fume-extraction welding gun, while facing a hot arc, ergonomics takes on an especially important meaning. A welding gun’s handle, neck and power-cable design can significantly impact how long a welder can function without experiencing fatigue or stress. Also, excessive heat from welding, just like musculoskeletal strain, can contribute negatively to the welder’s health and efficiency.

In the long run, choosing a welding gun that offers optimum comfort and operates at a relatively low temperature can help increase productivity and, ultimately, the profitability of the welding operation, by allowing for greater arc-on time.

Minimize Fatigue with the Right Handle

Welding-gun manufacturers offer handles in curved and straight designs; choice depends on operator preference. So, metalformers should allow operators to experiment to determine which design best suits him or her.

Welding-gun manufacturers offer handles in curved and straight designs; choice depends on operator preference. So, metalformers should allow operators to experiment to determine which design best suits him or her.
When possible, a welder may want to consider using a slightly lower-amperage welding gun to gain greater comfort and minimize fatigue and stress on the wrists and hands. Typically, as a welding gun’s amperage decreases so too does the size of the gun handle. As handle size decreases, the equipment becomes lighter and easier to maneuver for longer periods of time. It is important, however, when opting to use a smaller and lighter-weight handle that the gun still meets the application’s requirements for welding amperage and duty cycle. Duty cycle is defined by the equipment’s allowable arc-on time in a 10-min. period when operating at maximum capacity. Some welding guns will offer 100-percent-duty cycle, while others are rated 60 percent or below. In many cases, a welding gun rated at 300 A, for example, may suffice for a 400-A application considering that welders rarely weld continuously enough to exceed the gun’s duty cycle.

In a shop setting, another option to gain greater comfort and productivity would be to convert to a water-cooled welding gun for GMAW applications. Water-cooled guns typically are smaller, lighter and easier for welding operators to manage for long periods of time.

Keep Cables Short and Small

Smaller, shorter and lighter power cables offer greater flexibility to welders, making it easier to maneuver the equipment without excess stress on the wrists or hands. A good rule of thumb: Select the smallest and shortest power cable that still meets the needs of the application.

Smaller, shorter cables also can minimize clutter in the weld cell, by preventing excessive coiling and minimizing tripping hazards. Less clutter and coiling also reduces the chance of poor wire feeding, which could cause downtime and hinder productivity.

Lastly, when using fume-extraction guns look for a vacuum-hose swivel feature on the rear of the handle. This feature improves flexibility and reduces welder fatigue.

Reduce Strain with the Right Neck

Many GMAW and flux-cored guns come with rotatable and flexible necks in various lengths and angles. These neck types allow the welder to select the one best-suited to access the weld joints required for an application.

For example, rotatable necks find use when welding out of position, even overhead. They do not require the welder to change the welding-gun handle or position, so he can hold the gun in a that is most comfortable while also gaining access to the weld joint.

Similarly, flexible necks can easily be adjusted to fit different welding angles and reach difficult joints that may be restricted or otherwise awkward to reach. This feature also helps minimize straining to reach a particular weld joint, reducing the opportunity for fatigue or injury.

Some welding-gun manufacturers also offer neck couplers. These accessories allow the welder to connect multiple necks together to comfortably reach weld joints that are particularly difficult to access.

Staying Cool and Comfortable

To complement ergonomics efforts and further increase welder productivity, metalformers should also seek s to reduce heat in the work environment, particularly when welding reflective materials such as aluminum or stainless-steel alloys. To minimize the impact of radiant heat from the arc and workpiece reflecting back to the welding-gun handle, welders can select a longer welding-gun neck, which will move the handle further from the arc.

Another option for reducing welder exposure to heat from the arc is to install a neck grip on the welding gun. These high-temperature silicon-rubber grips slide over the neck and offer the added benefit of increased control. They allow welders to rest the neck on their hand or forearm, using it as a pivot point to maneuver the gun more comfortably.

In the end, equipping welders with easy-to-maneuver equipment is the first step in achieving good ergonomics, a safe work environment and optimum productivity. More comfortable welders are more content welders, who will reward their employers with greater throughput day in and day out. MF


See also: Bernard Welding

Related Enterprise Zones: Welding

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