Welding in snow/water?
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  1. #1
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    May 2008
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    Welding in snow/water?

    My shop is my front yard, and for 4-6 months a year I'm welding on snow. This has never been a problem, until last night.

    I was welding as normal, had my ground clamp across the snow and clamped to my table. I had the piece I was working with on the table, and was holding another piece to weld with my left hand. My equipment is in good condition, and my cables are not damaged at all.

    There was some water (melted snow) on the piece, and on my table, and my gloves were damp from working outside all day. I'm standing in snow/slush mix too. My ground, lead, and extension cord running power to the machine all lay in the snow.

    So when I go to start welding (mig) as soon as I pull the trigger I get shocked through my left hand. It was not much, felt about like your normal 110 volt wall plug shock. But this scared the heck out of me.

    So what do you think happened? Was this some sort of static build up that is harmless, or do I need to change my procedures?

  2. #2
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    When I worked with a commercial dive company on a few occasions we had to do wet welds to stop leaks in a barge. There was no special protective gear for the most part (he was in coveralls with the hat on, no rubber suit of gloves). All welds DC only and we had to keep the ground on the opposite side from the diver. We were constantly unhooking the ground frequently and moving it so the diver stayed on the oposite side of the clamp. As long as he didn't get between the stinger and the ground he was fine, no shocks. Can't get any wetter than that.

    I'm guessing you some how made a shorter path to ground than the work. Perhaps there is a small nick in the ground cable. You might have just gotten your other hand between the gun and where the ground was clamped.
    .



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  3. #3
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    I have welded in snow and standing in water, but I make sure I have on rubber boots and dry gloves and I do not do if I can get get out of it with putting dowm some wood and a rubber mat The OCV of your Mig unit is about half of the ordinary house current. I agree with the idea keeping your work lead positioned so you are not in the path. WATER AND ELECTRICITY DO NOT MIX. Is n't it worth the effort to keep out of the wet. I bet your kids and wife would think, so.

  4. #4
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Try to elevate your leads up off the ground. Use wooden blocks. I think simple A frames of cheapo plywood would do the job well. Maybe a foot tall, with a clamp on the top to just hold the wire snug. I have been hit pretty hard when water got involved, and I do not recommend it. You can also hurt your welder; mig machines are not excited to get wet, or have bad grounding issues.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    I'll add to my post after reading yours weldinglifer. I don't mean to imply safety gear is not required. I can read my post that way. You are correct that steps should be taken to insulate yourself as well as posible and to stay dry.

    My point was that water alone does not cause the issue. It's getting between the electrical path that is the problem. Anything that breaks the path, staying dry, rubber boots, taping nicks in the lead, ground position, etc will help with these issues.
    .



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  6. #6
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    I assume that you were running your mig from the power lines, have you double checked the ground connection???? as you didn't get a shock until you pulled the trigger I kind of doubt that is an issue, but is one more thing to check

    Was the piece that you were welding contacting the table or was it in the air??? If that was the case, if the wire hit that piece and if it wasn't making good contact that would do it! Both pieces that you are welding should be grounded if at all possible. Keep your gloves dry!
    -- fred

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  7. #7
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    It's happened to me before- I had my ground clamp on one side of 2 workpieces I was attempting to put the first tack into. My jig wasn't so good and just as I was striking the arc, the "assembly" fell apart. The path of least resistance (in fact, the only path to ground) happened to be through my hand that was holding part of the workpiece and into the work-clamp. Like you, I learned a valuable lesson quickly.

    Wet gloves and standing in water = accident waiting to happen. Get yourself a second pair of gloves- when the first pair gets damp, switch them out.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    If you ever weld in the rain w/ 7018 stick, after you and everything else get soaked good, you'll learn to lay the rod down you want to put in the stinger and pick it up w/ the stinger. Unless you're standing up wearing rubber boots and not touching anything the ground clamp is attached to.
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  9. #9
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    weld current is one thing, i had my hand in a bad place when un-plugging a 220v dryer after our basement flooded. in short, I woke up on the other side of the laundry room. not fun.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Of course the contact between the work piece and the table where the work lead was connected amounts to nothing more than a bunch of tiny points of contact. Not always the best connection you can get. Ever get burnt spots on the table or work piece? Sometimes the work piece get kinda stuck to the table? Difficult starts till the work pice welds itself to the table? Clamping to the piece itself will help in these wet conditions or clamp the piece to the table.

    Unless you do like mla2ofus does and swap rods standing in a pool. In that case you gotta be quick and you gotta get it right the first try.
    Last edited by Sandy; 01-15-2010 at 11:47 PM. Reason: add "or clamp the piece"

  11. #11
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    First rubber boots are your friend. I discovered when welding in rain securing corrugated roof decking that a pair of rubber gloves and the boots saved me. There was so much rain that water was running down my sleeves and filling my gloves.
    If you can't keep things dry then go for proper insulation.

  12. #12
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    What I do if I have no option but to weld in or around water is to make sure my work boots have no holes or leaks in them (I water proof them every 3 days) and put 2 pairs of latex gloves on under my welding gloves.. Never had a problem, but then again our normal power here is 240 V and it doesn't tickle

  13. #13
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquafire View Post
    It's happened to me before- I had my ground clamp on one side of 2 workpieces I was attempting to put the first tack into. My jig wasn't so good and just as I was striking the arc, the "assembly" fell apart. The path of least resistance (in fact, the only path to ground) happened to be through my hand that was holding part of the workpiece and into the work-clamp. Like you, I learned a valuable lesson quickly.

    Wet gloves and standing in water = accident waiting to happen. Get yourself a second pair of gloves- when the first pair gets damp, switch them out.
    I got a good one like that right through my boots holding a piece for a guy. It was rusty and I asked the guy nicely ahead of time, if you cannot strike an ARC and you stick to the piece, open the stinger to disconnect. Do not pull the rod/part off of the workpiece. He did not listen and when he pulled off, I got a shot through my body. Through my boots that were in great shape. I was totally dry, standing on dry concrete, a few stories up on a new building. I had gotten this before, and I knew I did not want it again.

    If your gloves are damp you can get a shock from the screw terminal access hole in the stinger. You just need a little bit of the damp or wet leather to touch the screw. A lot of times someone will replace the low profile screw in the stinger, with one that sticks up or out a little. As soon as your gloves start to get damp you well get those little pops.

    When your gloves get very wet, it will stand you up, or turn you into a grass hoper, and there is nothing you can do about it. I did it a second time just to see if it was real.



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    William McCormick

  14. #14
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    I feel your pain man. I weld in the snow all the time. DRY GLOVES is a must. I do wear rubber winter boots as well. But the dry gloves thing is the key here.


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  15. #15
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    The other thing with air, is that when you turn it into a plasma it becomes a "self inducting" load. Meaning it can hit you like a transformer can hit you. Or a self inducting elemental load can hit you.

    If anyone has ever taken a cheap little light bulb, continuity checker to a transformer, you probably know that when you take the continuity checker off the transformer you get an eye opening pop. Some say you can easily die from it. Maybe it is my welding mitts that keep me alive?

    But elemental loads even twelve volt car bulbs can do that to you as well. With a surprising pop. When I was a kid, I must have hit myself with the discharge about ten times before I realized I was getting a nice pop from the leads to a low voltage bulb, that I was disconnecting from a battery. I could not feel the battery power, but I could certainly feel the discharge from the glowing bulb being disconnected.

    You have to pick up what you learn from each of these life experiences. And compile it into some sort of logical life supporting safety information manual.

    But air can cause very high voltages from very low voltages. That is why welding was always ranked very high in dangerous jobs.

    A friend of mine takes the ground off a part while touching the part and the plasma cutter ground simultaneously.

    I know there was a guy who did just that and died. Because he had the right sized part, the right length and gauge leads, and the right air gap to do it to him. But most of the time you will not get hurt. By actual experience.

    But you should at least be aware of what you are actually doing. You are blowing or overloading an air capacitor to create a self inducting air gap in order to weld.

    Sincerely,


    William McCormick

  16. #16
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Also, remember this. It's not the voltage that kills you, it's the amperage. A few milliamps will kill you if the connection is bridged across your chest (think arm to arm) and therefore across your heart.

    An interesting bit of trivia (happens to be in the NASA high voltage electrical safety manual) is that the lowest voltage output anyone has ever been killed by was three volts. Amperage was only around 5 milliamps. This unfortunate individual actually tripped and fell in his garage and tried to catch himself with his hands out in front of him. Unfortunately, his hands landed on the spike posts of a three volt backup battery. Since the posts penetrated into his hands, it was a direct arc across his heart and he died instantly.

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  17. #17
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Quote Originally Posted by mla2ofus View Post
    If you ever weld in the rain w/ 7018 stick, after you and everything else get soaked good, you'll learn to lay the rod down you want to put in the stinger and pick it up w/ the stinger. Unless you're standing up wearing rubber boots and not touching anything the ground clamp is attached to.
    Mike
    "Any day above ground is a good day"

  18. #18
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    > ...and extension cord running power to the machine all lay in the snow.

    That's the one I'd be real scared of. If there's anything amiss with the wiring either in the machine or in the shop, especially the ground wiring, you can have 110 or 220 looking for YOU. You got hit when you triggered the machine but maybe that's not just welding volts you felt - if there's a cross or a wet short from line side to welding side line volts will travel down the lead just as easy as welding volts.

    Your jolt might not have anything to do with the welding side - might be a message straight from the utility company.

    Rufus

  19. #19
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    Nothing worth stressing out over. the part you were tacking probably grounded out through the wet glove on your left hand. It happens!

  20. #20
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    dude, alongside the other hazards identified in this thread, you got shocked because you were wet, and touching the work. Happens almost everyday the weather is no sunny and clear to ironworkers, or the apprentice holding the piece!
    If you dont rest a wet gloved hand on the work, you wont get shocked. One thing I do at work is try really hard not to get my welding gloves wet. I carry a pair of work gloves, and yes I switch them quickly when I have to grab wet pieces or do something that would get the welding gloves wet. Many less shocks, much happier me.

  21. #21
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    weve had guys come in with same type issue. and usually when we inspect the lead we find nicks. little ones that dont stand out. usually once we tape em up good there good to go. go over ur lead slow.just takes a tiny little nick to get u hooked up! goodluck hope u find the problem.

  22. #22
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    Re: Welding in snow/water?

    i would add if ur gonna use electrical tape get the higher quality tape. dollar store stuff wont stay taped for long. 3m makes some good flexible stuff that stays longer especially if ur putting it on a flexible line.

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