Underwater Welding Is One Of The Most Dangerous Jobs In The World, Why?

Dhir Acharya - Sep 01, 2020

Underwater Welding Is One Of The Most Dangerous Jobs In The World, Why?

Underwater welding is a difficult and dangerous job, in which welders repair pipelines, ships, dams, nuclear power facilities, among other infrastructures.

Underwater welding is a difficult and dangerous job.

However, thousands of people are doing this job. They repair pipelines, ships, offshore oil drilling rigs, locks, dams, nuclear power facilities, and sub-sea habitats among other infrastructures.

Underwater welding is very dangerous
Underwater welding is very dangerous

Different welding approaches

When binding two metal pieces underwater, one needs to take a lot of considerations regarding safety. Welders approach this task in a number of ways, but the most ideal way is using a dry chamber.

A temporary hyperbaric chamber helps prevent water from getting into the work area. It can hold as many as three welders at a time. At the same time, a ground crew controls fans to constantly replace the exhausted air in the chamber with new air. Besides, the chamber is pressurized to minimize the influence of pressure sickness.

Underwater welding
The first approach is using a chamber

The second approach is wet welding, but it’s mostly used as the last resort. The choice of approach depends on how easy it is to access the welding area as well as the level of severity.

The downside of wet welding is that welds cool down too quickly in the water, which raises the chance of cracking. This method is usually used in an emergency or as a temporary solution. In wet welding, welders have to work deep underwater with minimal visibility and extreme cold.

To start an underwater welding career, one must obtain a certification after proper training from an appropriate body depending on the country.

Underwater welding
Wet welding

How welding works

Most underwater welders use an electric arc to supply energy for stick welding. When the flux on the outside of the rod evaporates, a thick bubble layer is created. The gas layer shields the weld from the water as well as other oxidizing compounds.

The dangers of underwater welding

One of the biggest dangers of underwater welding is called Delta P (ΔP), or differential pressure, which presents a potentially fatal hazard to welders. Delta P occurs when two bodies of water with different water levels intersect, water levels at a dam, for example.

This difference results in a difference in pressure as water tries to rush one body to another with a large force. Moreover, the differential pressure can barely be detected until there’s no chance to escape. It can reach hundreds of pounds per square inch, reducing the chance of escape.

As a result, a diver trapped in this situation is likely to drown.

For safe project execution, proper practices and preparations need to be considered. An underwater welder also needs physical strength, technical skills, and experience to dive to do this job. If they don’t strictly follow safety procedures, they face a high risk of fatal accidents.

“If a diver is using a scuba tank, has no support staff or communications equipment and is not tethered to the surface—the opposite of the typical scenario involving certified commercial divers—commercial diver could run out of air while trapped, or hypothermia could set in.”

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