Many workplaces perform some welding or oxyacetylene cutting in their facilities, even if it is not production work. And to do some types of welding or oxy-acetylene cutting you must have cylinders of compressed gases – oxygen or fuel gases – in your facility. Do you ever stop to think who is responsible for these cylinders?

OSHA requires that the workmen be instructed and judged competent by their employers before being left in charge of oxygen or fuel gas supply equipment, according to 29 CFR 1910.253(a)(4). However, this paragraph can raise more questions than it answers.

One of the more frequent questions regards whether this applies to welders in a maintenance shop or in the field.

Another question that often comes up is who is considered to be competent?

The workman in charge of a system may perform as a welder and welding operator to the extent that welding or cutting does not interfere with his or her responsibilities for safe operation of the system in accordance with 1910.253(a)(4).

Employees who are welding or cutting must have had suitable training on the safe operation of their equipment and the safe use of the process. Their supervisors must have been trained as well. Have your employees been trained?

OSHA answers this question in a letter of interpretation (5/13/1998) by stating that the workman in charge requirement is applicable in a maintenance shop, in the field, and in other workplaces where a portable oxygen-fuel gas welder or cutting system is used by more than one employee. It also applies where an oxygen-fuel gas welding or cutting system is installed.

OSHA answers this question as well. Any workman who is trained and demonstrates proficiency in following the rules and instructions required under paragraph 1910.253(a)(4) would be considered competent to perform the duties of a workman in charge of an oxygen-fuel gas welding or cutting system.

Employers are required to provide suitable training to cutters, welders, and their supervisors on the safe operation of their equipment and the safe use of the process. The requirements under 1910.253(a)(4) are applicable to a workman in charge of an oxygen-fuel gas welding or cutting system to which welders or welding operators connect and use equipment.

For more information, visit the J.J. Keller & Associates Web site at www.jjkeller.com.