Life Expectancy of Underwater Welder

Last Updated on 9 months by Richard Boyer

Underwater welding is a specialized profession that involves welding underwater at high pressures. Since the world of underwater is intriguing and equally challenging, underwater welding calls for a unique set of skills and expertise. 

It is one of the most hazardous professions and requires a special mix of welding prowess, braving depths of the ocean, working in extreme conditions, and an understanding of underwater circumstances. Given the unique demands of the profession and exposure to a number of risks, comprehending the variables impacting the life expectancy of underwater welders becomes crucial. 

The role of underwater welders involves maintaining underwater fittings, pipelines, dams, offshore oil drilling rigs, ships, and more. 

With this field of work being a subject of considerable discussion, one question that consistently lingers in people’s minds is: What is the average life expectancy of an underwater welder? How does their work affect their life span and overall well-being?

In this article, we’ll dig into the realm of underwater welding and examine the elements influencing the life expectancy of individuals involved in this profession.  From analyzing the demands of the field to talking about precautionary practices, we aim to bring forth the realities faced by underwater welders and uncover the truth behind their life expectancy statistics.

Also read: What Shade Lens for Mig Welding

How Does Underwater Welding Work?

It is exceedingly risky to use electricity when in water. Fortunately, many of the direct risks associated are mitigated by use of modern technology equipment. Despite the fact that the process is not very simple, many complications can be avoided if you use the right approach. 

The underwater welding can be performed using the following two methods: 

Dry Welding:

Dry welding is one of the most dependable techniques of underwater welding. Often referred to as hyperbaric welding, the Dry welding involves creating a dry atmosphere around the welding site using various-sized enclosures. These enclosures are the sealed habitats or chambers equipped with water-displacing gas, like helium, to maintain a dry environment. As there is no interaction with water, dry welding gives superior process control and produces more effective results. 

Also read: What is Tack Welding

Wet Welding 

שאול עומר דוברות חיל הים, CC via Wikimedia Commons

Wet welding involves performing welding procedures directly in the water without use of any enclosed structure. However, every piece of equipment that a welder uses is properly insulated. Plus, for added protection welders wear safety gear to prevent risk of electrical shocks. 

Another distinction between wet welding and dry welding lies in the utilization of a specialized waterproof electrode. This electrode serves the purpose of creating a gaseous barrier around the welding arc, effectively restricting water from getting in contact with weld.

How Long Do Underwater Welders Live?

Welders face a variety of potential hazards which impact their health. Thereby, making welding one of the highest-risk prone occupations in the world. On average, welders have a life expectancy ranging from 40 to 50 years while the average worldwide lifespan for a healthy individual is around 72 years. This difference exists because of the nature of the profession and the associated hazards that come with it. 

In addition, the emissions of toxic fumes, exorbitant heat, and chemicals generated during the welding process tend to interfere with your bodily systems, adversely affecting your overall health. As such, there is a possibility of sudden unintentional fatality associated with the profession. Welders are likely to encounter such unforeseen instances sometimes also resulting in immediate loss of life. 

However, determining the precise life expectancy of underwater welders is challenging. But it is equally crucial to acknowledge the presence of inherent risks associated with this profession.

Also read: What is Peening in Welding

Underwater Welding Dangers That Reduce Lifespan 

Underwater welders are constantly at risk. Performing this job requires exceptional composure, strength as well as unwavering focus, and concentration. 

By the way, understanding the potential risks is as vital as acquiring basic welding skills, without intending to sound pessimistic. In this regard, we have listed down the hazards that commercial divers encounter while working underwater. We will delve into the reasons and mechanisms through which these risks can pose danger in an underwater work environment, potentially impacting the lifespan of welders.

  • Decompression Sickness – Barotrauma

Decompression sickness, also known as barotrauma, occurs when there is a sharp shift of pressure while transitioning between different environments, such as moving from underwater to land. 

The DCS develops as a result of the body’s rapid descent from a high pressure environment to a low pressure environment leading to formation of bubbles of toxic gasses in the bloodstream. Decompression sickness can be fatal if neglected and has symptoms like nausea, fatigue, joint pain, numbness, tingling and headaches.

  • Hypothermia – Exposure to Colds

Due to prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, underwater welders experience significant heat loss from their bodies, resulting in a fall of their body temperature to extreme low. Under this condition, breathing a mixture of oxygen and helium proves fatal. This insufficient gas heating causes more heat to escape from the lungs, increases the likelihood of lung freezing and the potential development of hypothermia.

  • Drowning

Despite the strict adherence to safety precautions, the risk of drowning in the underwater welding profession is still present, regardless of the level of experience, whether one is an experienced welder or a novice. According to studies done so far, drowning remains a primary and most common cause of death among underwater welders. In situations where visibility decreases underwater while diving deeper, welders run the risk of getting entangled by their welding apparatus. Additionally, a number of causes, including defective equipment, injuries, poor air supply, and cardiac arrests among divers, can also contribute to drowning.

Also read: How to Test Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets

  • Electrocution – Death Due to Electric Shock

In the field of underwater welding, electrocution is a major concern. The presence of conductive seawater and the use of electricity in underwater welding create a high-risk environment where the potential for electrical accidents and injuries is heightened. Therefore, safety measures and proper training are essential to mitigate the risk of electrocution during underwater welding operations.

Electrocution injuries resulting from underwater welding can vary in severity, ranging from minor shocks to severe burns, cardiac arrest, internal organ damage, and potential fatality.

  • Environmental Hazards 

Undertaking underwater welding in challenging environments such as oil rigs, dams, oceans, and lakes entails significant risk. The release of harmful substances and pollutants, generation of intense heat, disturbances in wave movement, rough water conditions, and poor visibility all pose a tangible threat to human life.

Furthermore, the utilization of anti-corrosion coatings and chemicals can amplify environmental damage. Considering these impacts, it is crucial to prioritize strict compliance with environmental regulations and adopt responsible practices that help mitigate the hazards associated with underwater welding.

Also read: Difference between Soldering Vs Welding

  • Explosion Fatalities

One of the infrequent yet evident hazards of underwater welding is the risk of explosions.

The presence of flammable substances, combined with potential sources of ignition, increase the risk of accidents underwater. This combination amplifies the risk and introduces an additional peril for commercial divers. In the event of an ignition, such as a fire or explosion, the consequences could be catastrophic, potentially leading to fatalities or severe injuries. This draws attention towards enforcing rigorous safety protocols and implementing preventive measures in order to effectively mitigate these risks and ensure the well-being of underwater welders.

Hidden Effects of Underwater Welding

Several temporary health issues may arise during your course of welding occupation. Extended exposure leading to inhalation of toxic gasses and chemicals during welding can have a notable impact on your long-term physical well-being. 

 The fumes produced during the process may destroy your body’s organs. However, such impacts are often hidden and disregarded. So, here are some of the hidden effects of underwater welding. 

  • The noise produced during the welding process may have the potential to cause minor nerve cell damage, thereby jeopardizing one’s auditory health.
  • Engaging in repetitive heavy-duty tasks can lead to shoulder problems. 
  • Prolonged kneeling or reclining can cause knee injuries. 
  • Skin disorders such as skin inflammation or skin darkening.
  •  Some of the other minor effects associated with welding include nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, coughing, and irritation of the eyes, skin, and nasal passages.

It is crucial to recognize that the cumulative impact of these can have adverse health implications later in life. However, the good thing is that workers may significantly reduce their chances of developing these issues by adhering to effective preventative measures, such as putting on the appropriate safety gear and employing ergonomic practices within their work settings.

Also read: Difference between Mig Vs Tig Welding

Common Causes of Underwater Welding Death Causes

  • Inadequate training and lack of experience.
  • Malfunctioning equipment, including breathing apparatus or diving gear.
  • Poor ventilation underwater. 
  • Limited visibility, strong currents, or unstable structures found underwater. 
  • Neglecting or deviating from established safety procedures and guidelines.

Guidelines For Underwater Welder

When doing underwater welding operations, safety must always come first. Underwater welders can successfully reduce the hazards connected with their demanding job by following certain guidelines and remaining vigilant at all times. 

In light of the evident dangers associated with the job, it is imperative to prioritize safety measures and precautions as an underwater welder. When considering the life expectancy of underwater welders, it is crucial to emphasize the significance of adhering to safety guidelines and practices, which include: 

  • Obtain necessary training and certification to build competence in welding techniques, equipment operation, and inspection procedures.
  • Seek specialized training in diving to enhance your diving skills and proficiency.
  • Using the right tools is essential for underwater welders. Upgrading equipment enhances efficiency, extends professional lifespan, and enables tasks to be completed more quickly and efficiently.
  • Always wear the proper protective gear, such as a diving helmet, mask, gowns, goggles, gloves, an insulated wetsuit, and a safety harness, to secure yourself against dangers like thermal burns, electrical shocks, and other things.

The Average Life Expectancy of an Underwater Welder

Due to a number of variables and unique circumstances involved, it is challenging to pinpoint the average life expectancy of an underwater welder.

In particular, it is important to remember that underwater welding is a high-pressure job which involves a lot of uncertainties and challenges. Since the job is dangerous it is not for the faint hearted. It can have an adverse effect on your overall well-being and health. It takes a toll on your body. Therefore, anyone wishing to get into this field must be in good health.  

There are a number of factors that may have an effect on the lifespan of an underwater welder. A few of them are the extent of safety precautions used, adherence to best practices, frequency of risk exposure, and individual health issues.

Also read: Can You Weld Cast Iron With a Wire Feed Welder

Nevertheless, according to recent studies, an underwater welder is typically expected to live 35 to 40 years. Underwater welding, due to its utilization of electricity in a water environment and the production of high levels of heat, poses a significant risk of injury or even death to the welder. Consequently, this raises death risk for underwater welders. 


Underwater welding poses greater challenges and risks compared to welding on dry land due to the specific working environment. It is an exceptionally difficult and hazardous occupation that demands a high level of personal accountability prior to accepting the job. If you are ready to take risks, the job can turn out to be lucrative. 

Also read: Can You Weld Zinc Plated Steel

By choosing to undergo professional training, investing in advanced and top-notch underwater welding equipment, and strictly following comprehensive safety protocols, the potential for injuries and hazards can be significantly minimized.

Therefore, our expert recommendation for all individuals involved in underwater welding is to prioritize acquiring appropriate training and gaining a thorough understanding of the challenges it entails. By doing so, we can substantially decrease the death rate among underwater welders.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are underwater welders susceptible to marine animal attacks?

It’s possible for underwater welders to come into contact with marine animals while they’re working, but the likelihood of an attack is often low. Underwater welders are typically safe from attacks from marine wildlife provided they follow safety procedures and are knowledgeable about the behavior of aquatic creatures.

2. What is the annual salary of an underwater welder?

The annual salary of an underwater welder can vary significantly based on various factors, including their experience level, certifications, geographical location, employer, and the specific scope of work. On average, underwater welders can expect to earn between $40,000 to $100,000 or more per year. However, it is important to note that these figures are approximate and subject to variations based on individual circumstances and the prevailing conditions within the industry.

3. Is Underwater Welding Carcinogenic?

Underwater welding itself is not considered carcinogenic. However, studies have provided evidence that the materials and coatings used in the process can release fumes or particles that may have carcinogenic properties. They may contribute to the occurrence of lung cancer and heighten the susceptibility to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 
Additionally, studies have shown that underwater welders have a higher risk of developing skin cancer compared to individuals working in non-submerged environments.
However, adhering to safety protocols, using proper protective equipment, and minimizing exposure are important to mitigate such potential health risks.

4. Can underwater welding have adverse effects on eyesight?

Yes. Underwater welding poses risks to eyesight due to factors such as intense light, sparks, radiation exposure, and particle exposure. The high intensity of light waves emitted during welding can impair the iris’s ability to regulate brightness, potentially leading to the gradual formation of cataracts over time.

5. What is the temperature of underwater welding?

Underwater welding commonly requires working with temperatures that can vary between 5,000 and 30,000 degrees Celsius. 
However, the exact temperature depends on factors like the welding technique employed, the type of material being welded, and the specific project requirements. It is essential to acknowledge that these extreme temperatures are crucial for achieving the melting and fusion of metals during underwater welding operations.

  • July 6, 2023
Richard Boyer

Richard Boyer has been a professional welder for over 27 years of his life, and now he is a trainer and blogger providing critical information to anyone interested in welding. He is helping out both hobbyists, novice and professional welders to learn newer and better techniques. Read more about me

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: