Welding and cutting torches: Protect yourself from ear damage caused by hot slag

By Mike Fetting, CSP

A burned ear drum. Just the thought makes you cringe, doesn’t it?

It’s as painful as it sounds, and it’s one of the injuries that can result when welding slag flies into your ear at high speed.

This can result in tinnitus, ear infections, balance problems and permanent hearing loss. It may require surgery.

These injuries can occur anytime someone is welding without ear protection, and the risk is especially high when a welder is working at an odd angle, such as underneath a wheel well.

Those who weld on the job suffer these types of injuries more often than you might think, but many don’t know to wear protection to avoid an accident.

The good news is it isn’t hard for welders to protect themselves from hot slag. To avoid a painful and sometimes lifelong injury:

  • Wear fire-resistant foam or silicone custom-molded earplugs, or ear muffs while welding. Often grinding precedes the welding job, so you might need them for noise protection, too.
  • Wear a full-face welder’s helmet along with a cloth welder’s cap that covers your ears and neck.

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