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Argon Welding Safety
Argon gas is commonly used in a tungsten inert gas (TIG) welder. The inert gas shields the electrodes and the weld from oxidization. This process creates the cleanest welds possible. The argon gas is stored and transported in high-pressure tanks. Argon is inert, meaning it does not react with any other substance, and is not considered poisonous. Safe handling is still required.
Argon is transported in high-pressure tanks that can pose an explosion danger. An abrupt break or leak in the tank can cause the entire tank to become a dangerous projectile. Wear steel-toe safety shoes or boots and handle the tanks carefully to avoid tipping or falling tanks. Store the tanks in areas with temperatures of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Inert gases such as argon are heavier than normal oxygen. They accumulate in enclosed areas and displace the oxygen laden air from the space. If enough oxygen is displaced the air no longer will support life. Use a TIG welder in a well ventilated area.
The argon gas stops oxidization at the site of the weld. This will prevent a fire from starting at the weld joint. However, fires can occur away from the weld due to residual heat. Keep a fire extinguisher handy when using a TIG welder.
Close the valve of the argon tank after each use. In the event of an argon leak, ventilate the area. The gas has no taste or smell but displaces the oxygen in an enclosed area. If a tank leaks, open windows and doors. Ventilation fans can be used to move the argon gas out of the enclosed area. Pay particular attention to pits, basements or cellars where the heavier-than-air gas will settle.
Treat someone who comes in contact with argon gas by moving him to an area with fresh air. Wash exposed eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes after exposure. Consult a medical professional if discomfort continues after first aid treatment.
Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.