Hard Working Lawyers For
Hard Working People

Thermite welding hazards for railyard workers

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Railroad Worker Injury

Railroad welding ensures seamless and durable tracks. However, this method uses a dangerous chemical reaction that poses risks to railyard workers.

By understanding the hazards involved in using thermite, workers can protect themselves from potentially unsafe conditions.

Heat exposure

Thermite reaches temperatures of up to 4500 degrees Fahrenheit. This intense heat can cause burns on exposed skin if workers do not have the following personal protective equipment:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Heat-resistant jackets and pants
  • Boots

Supervisors must also allow workers to stay hydrated and take breaks in cooler areas to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Molten metal splatter

During the welding process, molten steel can splatter, posing a risk of burns to individuals who are not working directly on the welding job. Because of this risk to bystanders, all workers in the immediate area should wear appropriate protective clothing.

Fume inhalation

The thermite reaction generates so much heat that aluminum oxide and other metal oxides become minute, air-born particles that workers can easily inhale. Because prolonged exposure to these fumes can lead to respiratory issues, workers should wear respiratory protection, such as masks or respirators.

Noise exposure

While the thermite reaction itself is fairly quiet, other equipment used to fix railroad tracks can generate high levels of noise. Prolonged exposure to this noise can damage hearing over time. Workers should wear ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, to prevent hearing loss.

Eye injury

Workers can suffer eye damage from thermite in two ways. The first is from dust entering the eye and potentially scratching the cornea. The other way is by looking directly at the thermite reaction. The explosion releases light in the ultraviolet spectrum, so staring at it can damage the retina in the same way looking directly at the sun does.

Besides the unique risks that thermite presents, railroad workers should also stay aware of other potential job-related injuries such as trips and falls, muscle strains and electrical hazards.


FindLaw Network