Don't be a hot dog with heating heads

Tips for safe use

Practical Welding Today May/June 2003
May 29, 2003
By: Jeffrey Johnson

Some call them rosebuds, others call them multiflame heating heads, and a few call them heat sticks. No matter what you call torch attachments, this article is a frank discussion about these tools that use oxygen and a fuel gas to make a lot of heat quickly. When used properly, they can make quick work of many heating jobs.

Welders use heating heads to preheat steels before welding, maintain heat between welds, heat treat after welding, and heat before straightening or bending. Heating heads can be safe every time they're lit when you use them safely.

However, heating attachments probably are the most dangerous tools you can put on the end of a torch when you don't use them safely.

Torch manufacturers make them, salespeople sell them, purchasing agents buy them, supervisors pass them out, and welders use them. So aren't they safe? The answer is yes, but only when:

  • The manufacturer's operating instructions are followed exactly.
  • The right heating head and gas supply are specified and chosen for the job.
  • The head is supplied with enough fuel, oxygen pressure, and flow through the right-sized regulators, hose, and torch handle.
  • Properly sized safety devices (such as check valves and flashback arrestors) are installed and maintained correctly.

Basically, they can be as safe as any other piece of equipment designed to use oxygen and a fuel gas for cutting, welding, or heating.

Safety Involves Everyone

Whose job is it to make sure all the proper precautions are taken? Whose job is it to make sure the right equipment and procedures are in place? Whose job is it to make sure everyone involved understands and practices safe operations? Whose responsibility is it to make sure no one "toasts his buns" when using heating heads?

It's everyone's job—from the company that makes the heating heads, to the folks who sell them, to the people who purchase them, to supervisors who pass them out on the job, to the person in charge of safety training at the workplace, to those welders who light them and use them.

Equipment distributors that supply heating heads sometimes simply find one in a catalog and fill the order, without fully understanding the real hazards involved or perhaps lacking the experience or knowledge to communicate the potential dangers to their customers.

People in purchasing and safety departments frequently assume that because heating heads have been purchased and used in the past, they don't need to discuss safe operating procedures or train workers to use them safely.

Often welders who have used these attachments never see the instruction sheets that come with them. When they do, they often don't feel the need to read and heed the many important warnings listed.

Often the welder puts the box over one shoulder, flips the instruction manual over the other shoulder, and puts the head on the torch and lights it up, where it roars like a new propane grill.

The workers whose safety depends on reading and following these instructions should be able to understand and practice the safe operation of these devices every time they light one up.

What can happen if they don't?

Because of many different conditions (see Figure 1), heating equipment used improperly can backfire, flashback, melt down in a worker's hands, or simply explode.

Remember: Don't be a hot dog!

Learning to Use Heating Heads Safely

If you work at a company that uses heating heads, find all the heating attachments in your workplace. Then talk to the people who are involved with these heating attachments and their use—the safety director, the buyer, the shop or site supervisors, and the workers who use them.

Next, review the most common problems associated with heating heads, their causes, and remedies; also review safe practices.

If any of the conditions apply to your shop, site, or company, take notes on the questions raised and call your local gas distributor and equipment supplier. Ask them to provide on-site training on the safe usage of these attachments.

When all that's done, don't use these devices until you know how to use them safely. Make certain to wear the proper personal protective gear and have copies of the manufacturer's operating instructions to refer to.

If you work at a company that sells heating heads, talk to your manufacturer's representatives and ask them to provide product safety training sessions for both your inside counter and outside people. Too many distributor salespeople don't have enough information, experience, or knowledge to recommend the proper setups for safe and efficient operation of heating heads.

Schedule training sessions tightly focused on these devices. Ask all the salespeople to learn how to equip and light up a heating head system safely and properly. You might even want to have them light one up. Nothing beats practical, hands-on experience.

For anyone who buys, uses, or sells this type of equipment, knowing how to handle the gas suppy, equipment, and safety gear is part of the job.

Incorrect, incomplete, or potentially unsafe recommendations are not options, and ignoring the facts isn't a good excuse once you've been injured.

Perhaps considering the number of heating heads that have blown up, exploded, melted down, or injured the user over the years will help you. Remember: Don't be a hot dog with heating heads!

Jeffrey Johnson

Gass Inc.
444 Driftwood Drive
Hobart, IN 46342
Phone: 219-947-4027

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Practical Welding Today

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Practical Welding Today was created to fill a void in the industry for hands-on information, real-world applications, and down-to-earth advice for welders. No other welding magazine fills the need for this kind of practical information.

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