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Help Prevent the Welder Shuffle

- May 2, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

If you have worked construction, or in a manufacturing facility with welding going on, I’m sure you have witnessed the “Welder Shuffle.” If you aren’t familiar, it’s the panicked dance someone does when a piece of molten metal (usually slag) lands in a welder’s ear, down their shirt or in a boot. This causes an almost involuntary frantic reaction to dislodge the object as quickly as possible with no regard to the movements needed to perform this task. It can be quite humorous to watch—but trust me; having done the shuffle myself it isn’t fun at all!

What are a few of the dangers of a “little hot piece of metal?” besides the obvious burn?

  • Infection from the molten metal or dirty gloves, as the employee picks at or tries to brush it off
  • Slip, trip or fall potential as the employee tries to remove their boot Hearing damage if the metal gets far enough into the ear canal

Yeah— it’s not fun in the least!

To help prevent these things from happening, there are several measures you can take.  They include:

Wear proper gloves. Leather, not cotton. These gloves come in various thicknesses to provide different levels of protection to the hands, and since they are usually only gripping, dexterity isn’t really an issue.

Insist on employees wearing at the minimum the light weight welding jackets. Welding leathers are preferred as they have more resistant to the sparks and slag that is created during the welding and cleaning process.

No ankle high shoes – It’s best to require 6-8 inch boots that slip on, as they can be quickly removed if needed.

Wear welder’s caps – These are thin light weight caps with short bills that can be worn to give additional protection to protect the head and ears.

Keep band-aids and topical ointments on hand.

Lastly, and most importantly, if employees have to do the “shuffle,” have a policy in place that makes them get the burn examined. It might be an inconvenience, but it will prevent additional lost time or job restriction—and pay off in the long run.


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