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What is Underwater Welding?

underwater welder working underwater

Underwater welding is a specialized process of welding performed underwater, typically carried out at significant depths. While it is an exciting area of welding to get into, it is also extremely dangerous. This specialization requires welders to be fully trained and certified in diving, in addition to being able to correctly perform the welding work needed.

This method of welding is used in many industries such as, the repair and maintenance of ships, offshore oil structures, pipelines, and other underwater constructions.

What are the Types of Underwater Welding?

There are two main methods of underwater welding — wet welding and dry welding. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Wet Welding

Wet welding is a welding practice that is performed directly in the water. While the welder and equipment are submerged, the process is adapted for the environment. Wet welding is made possible through the release of gaseous bubbles formed around the electric arc, which temporarily shields the weld from the surrounding water, making it possible to fuse the materials.

Dry Welding

Dry welding is also referred to as hyperbaric welding. This method physically displaces the water, making it possible for the weld to form. A hyperbaric chamber is sealed around the work area and filled with a gas that expels all water. Most often, inert gasses like helium and argon are mixed because they tend to not react with the metals being welded, resulting in a clean and strong weld.

The decision to use either wet or dry welding in certain instances can depend on a few factors. These could be the depth, certain environmental conditions, the type of work being carried out, along with the size and quality a project needs.

For instance, wet welding may be preferred for less accessible areas, or in jobs involving more flexibility. Whereas large-scale repairs depending on high quality welds, tend to favor dry welding methods since dry welding gives you more control over the workspace.

What Makes Underwater Welding Dangerous?

Underwater welding is actually considered one of the world’s most dangerous jobs due to several inherent risks. One of these being, the potential for electric shock. Wearing the proper rubberized PPE gear and working with insulated equipment designed to be used underwater plays a crucial role in mitigating this risk. Underwater welders also face the potential for explosions, along with visibility issues, and the presence of potentially hazardous marine life.

Decompression sickness is another condition underwater welders might face. Decompression sickness, sometimes referred to as “the bends”, occurs when the body undergoes a rapid change in water pressure, primarily from descending too quickly. By carefully following dive tables and decompression schedules, underwater welders can combat their risk for decompression sickness.

These are just some of the many reasons underwater welders must undergo specialized diving training before being authorized to work.

Is Underwater Welding Right for You?

As we’ve covered, underwater welding is one of the most hazardous jobs to have — let alone the most risky of welding jobs. However, with the proper training and skill set, underwater welding can be a great and lucrative career path.

If you’re interested in finding welding training, take the first step by exploring schools in your area today!

We’re serious when we say that welding touches virtually every industry. Check out our article “Welding and NASA”.

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