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Welding is a magical process whereby two pieces of materials (usually metal but also thermoplastic) are joined together through melting to create a strong bond.  Heat (and very high heat - the oxy-fuel torch uses flame in the 3000 C range) provided by electricity or a flame is used to melt the ends of the materials so that they can be fused into one.  Electrical arc welding is the most common method, but resistance welding (heat for melting is obtained by resistance to electric current) and gas welding are also popular. 

Welding is amongst the most dangerous workshop activities.  Welders need to wear protective head and body gear.   Welding helmets and goggles are required to protect against radiation, sparks, intense light.  Fire and flame resistant clothing and head covering to protect against hot slag and sparks.  Hand shields.  Respirators.  Ear plugs.  Boots and gloves to protect against electric shock, burns.  It's amazing a welder can function at all.

Welders need to ensure that their environment is safe as well.  Nothing flammable (liquid or solid) should be anywhere near the welding site.  Sparks, hot slag, torch flame can easily start a fire. 

If a fire does start, hopefully there is a functioning fire extinguisher nearby!  And that the welder is familiar with the procedure for using it.  A popular acronym describes the process:  PASS.  P for Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher to unlock it. A for Aim at the base of the fire to extinguish the fuel.  S for Squeeze the lever slowly to release the extinguishing agent.  S for Sweep from side to side and slowly move toward the fire as it diminishes.

That's great, but what if you don't have a fire extinguisher, or if the one you do have is so old and out of date it doesn't work?  Find something to smother the fire.  In order to survive, a fire needs oxygen, a source of heat and a combustible fuel source.  Cut off the oxygen by smothering the fire.  Water works on most fires (except grease and is dangerous with electrical fires due to the risk of electrocution).  Smothering with dirt or sand is another option.  Use whatever non-combustible material is readily available to bury the fire. 

Finally, know when to quit trying to put it out yourself and call for help.  Sometimes fires are easy to extinguish in the early stages.  But if they spread, they have a habit of getting out of control quickly.  Before that happens (and you lose your shop) call in the cavalry by dialing 911!

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