Can a Welder Shock You? And How to Avoid It

Written By: Liam Bryant

Reviewed By: Russell Egan

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You can get shocked while welding. It is possible to have a slight shock, but it’s extremely rare to receive a harmful or lethal shock. If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of being shocked while welding are extremely slim.

It’s natural for people to be apprehensive about welding at first. I recall being excited and terrified as I prepared to begin my first weld. In the end, the risk-to-reward ratio is rather high, so you won’t have to worry about injuring yourself if you follow the safety precautions.

Electricity is a powerful source of energy. A controlled circuit of electricity is used to perform the work when welding. The electricity arcing across a gap generating heat does the work.

This heat, generated between the electrode or wire and the base metal, melts the base metals and filler metal together. This combines them all into one material. And once the pool of molten metal cools, you have a finished weld.

What is the Potential for receiving a shock when welding?

What is the Potential for receiving a shock when welding

Electricity always flows through the path of least resistance. If you are dry and standing on a dry surface, your body has more resistance to electrical flow than the metals you work with.

The electricity encounters less resistance flowing through the base metals and back through the ground cable than it does through you. However, if you are the only conduit bridging an electrical circuit, you will likely receive a shock.

Getting shocked while welding is possible. Especially if you, your gloves, clothes, the floor, or the metals you are attempting to weld, are wet.

NOTE: Always avoid welding in the rain or snow. Make sure there are no sources of water or liquids that could accidentally come into contact with you while you are welding and you wear dry welding gloves and clothing.

Here are my recommendations for high-quality welding gloves to protect you while welding:

Best Overall
Rapicca Welding Gloves

Rapicca Welding Gloves

  • Reinforced Double Layer Kevlar Padding
  • Guaranteed to Withstand Temperatures up to 932 F
  • 16-inch Extra Long Gloves
  • 1.5mm Thick Cowhide Leather
Best Value for Money
Lincoln Electric Welding Gloves

Lincoln Electric Welding Gloves

  • High Grade Leather and Soft Cotton Liner
  • Kevlar Threading and Leather Reinforced Stree Points
  • Inside Cuff Lined with Twill Cotton to Absorb Moisture
Best for Stick Welding
Miller Electric Welding Gloves

Miller Electric Welding Gloves

  • Fully Welted Seams
  • 13-inch Cowhide Leather
  • Comfortable Black Liner

Even body sweat can and will increase the possibility of receiving a shock. Water is not necessarily a great conductor of electricity but has much less resistance than you.

Additionally, to avoid electrical shock, never touch the electrode, metal parts of the electrode holder or any exposed wire connecting the electrode holder to the machine.

Also, avoid welding while standing on metal floors such as grating or scaffolding. and replace damaged electrode holders immediately.

Inspect Welding Leads to Reduce Potential Shock Hazard

To further reduce the potential for shock hazard, before each job inspect both leads from the point where they leave the machine to their respective ends. Have the leads replaced at the first sign of worn, cracked, or missing insulation.

Always replace welding handles, electrode holders and ground lead clamps at the first sign of damage.

A great sister article this one is Protective Equipment Essentials for the Beginner welder. Be sure to educate yourself on basic PPE equipment.

Unplug The Welding Machine itself

Performing repairs on a welding machine or even changing wire spools on a MIG welder potentially exposes you to a higher voltage and current than welding does. It is imperative to turn off the machine and unplug it completely.

Unplugging is the only way to ensure that no electricity is present anywhere within the machine. Flipping the switch off only cuts the power to the leads. The machine should always be considered energized when still plugged in.

The current will always be AC or alternating current inside the welding machine.

Do I need to Unplug the MIG welder when changing spools or the Polarity?

Always unplug a MIG welder before opening the spool access door to change the spools or the polarity. If you are changing the spool, follow the instructions for your machine to feed the wire through the wire feeder correctly.

Then, close the access door before plugging the welder in. Pull the trigger until the new wire comes through the welding handle tip.

NOTE: If you just switched from flux core wire to MIG wire, for example, you may need to also change the polarity inside the welder. Again, unplug the welder before opening the access door and follow the instructions.  As always, after changing the polarity, close the access door before plugging the machine back in.

Make sure to locate the welding machine in a safe, dry place. Plug the welder into a circuit with the correct-sized breaker installed for the load.

15-Amp Single Pole Type Circuit Breaker
  • Single pole, 15 Amp, 120V type QP Circuit Breaker
  • 10,000 AIC interrupting rating
  • Easy plug-in connections and the time saving insta-wire feature
  • Use for overload and short-circuit protection of your electrical system

Inspect the plug and power cord for worn or cut insulation exposing bare wires.

Is AC or DC Welding more dangerous?

Generally speaking, welding with DC may be safer than welding with AC. If you are shocked, DC is not as likely to stop your heart as AC due to the rapid switching of the polarity of alternating current sending the heart into fibrillation.

It only takes 50 milliamperes to cause death. When shocked with AC, your muscles contract, making alternating current more likely to keep you from letting go of the electricity source if you have a grip on it at the time.

Even if it doesn’t cause death directly, a shock can cause you to fall. The fall itself could be dangerous or fatal depending on where you are and your positioning at the time. Other potential injuries from receiving a shock include burns and nerve damage.

What should you do if you are shocked while welding?

Damage caused by electrical burns can be severe. However, the severity is not always immediately evident.

Immediately after shutting off the power, contact emergency medical personnel. Necessary first aid may consist of CPR, treating for shock, and washing burns with clean water before covering with a clean bandage.

can a welder shock you

How many people are injured each year while welding?

Fatalities from electrical shock while welding is rare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported less than 50 fatalities from all causes among all metal workers in 2000. Personally, I have been shocked on a couple of occasions.

Once, while welding outside, snow and snowmelt covered everything, including me. I was lucky if it was a mild shock, but it did get my attention. Enough so, that I let everything dry up for a few days before working on the project again.

So, enjoy learning to weld. It can be very rewarding and safe. Simply follow a few basic rules. And never forget, just as with any job that involves tools and machinery, an injury is only one action away if you fail to follow basic safety precautions.

Marry some metal today!

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