While safety is a critical component in any manufacturing operating, brazing carries its own hazards, including chemical fumes and the heat and rays of the torch flame.
Modern safety programs focus on behavior-based safety (BBS) – encouraging employees to focus on actions leading to safer outcomes by preventing an injury or accident – rather than using only conformance-based approaches designed to penalize non-compliance or eliminate all risk.
Ideally, you want to identify potential risks and then raise situational awareness, so that workers are cognizant of their immediate surroundings and the impact of their actions on their wellbeing, as well as the safety of those nearby. As an example, one popular BBS program is DuPont™ STOP® Training.
In addition to protecting individual workers, a robust safety initiative helps avoid lost-time injuries (LTI) for your operation and ensures that you meet – or exceed – OSHA requirements. Tracking recordable injury rates and measuring success against national industry standards allow you to highlight areas for improvement and also celebrate success, such as days between LTIs. Better safety means less downtime and lower workers’ compensation costs for your operation.
Six Steps for Safe Brazing
Naturally, appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) for a brazing job includes gloves to protect hands against heat and shaded goggles or fixed glass shields to protect operators against eye fatigue and vision damage. Next, take these well-tested steps in your workplace – and share these best practices with workers – to enhance brazing safety:
1. Ventilate confined areas. Brazing involves the possibility of dangerous fumes and gases rising from base metal coatings, ink and cadmium-bearing filler metals, as well as fluorides in fluxes. Use ventilating fans and exhaust hoods to carry all fumes and gases away from work, along with air-supplied respirators as required.
2. Clean base metals thoroughly. Any surface contaminant of unknown composition on base metals may add to the fume hazard and may cause a too-rapid breakdown of flux, leading to overheating and fuming.
3. Apply sufficient flux. Flux protects base metals and the filler metal during the heating cycle. Full flux coverage also reduces fuming. Consult the appropriate safety data sheet (SDS) for specific hazards associated with brazing flux.
4. Heat metals broadly. It’s important to heat the base metals broadly and uniformly. Why? Intense, localized heating consumes flux, increases the danger of fuming. Apply heat only to base metals, not to filler metal, because direct flame on filler metal causes overheating and fuming.
5. Know your base metals. A cadmium coating on a base metal volatilizes and produces toxic fume during heating. Zinc coatings (galvanized) also fume when heated. Learn to recognize these coatings and remove them before heating parts.
6. Know your filler metals. Be especially careful not to overheat an assembly when using filler metals that contain cadmium. Consult the material’s SDS for maximum recommended brazing temperatures of a specific filler metal. Each filler metal carries a warning label; look for it and follow the instructions carefully.
Ensuring safety in your brazing practice pays off in the wellbeing of your employees as well as the success of your operation. If you need assistance, consider a brazing audit from the Lucas Milhaupt Technical Service team. Our experts can conduct a thorough technical audit of your brazing process and provide a report of process improvement recommendations.
Lucas Milhaupt Safety Data Sheets provide explicit instructions for safe and effective application.For more safety considerations, see the American National Standard Z49.1, "Safety in Welding and Cutting," published by the American Welding Society (AWS).