Work Lead versus Ground Lead: Using the Correct Term

Using the correct terminology is important. Knowing the difference could help you avoid electrical hazards. Mike Gordley of our Equipment Repair Division, sheds some light.

It’s not uncommon for the term “Ground” and “Ground lead” to be used when referring to a “WORK” lead on a welding system. Many folks use the terms ground and work lead interchangeably. This is wrong and can create a dangerous situation.

electrical leadsCommon welding power sources have a positive (+) stud and a negative (-) stud. You attach a cable leading to the electrode (a wire feeder, a shielded-metal arc welding stinger, or a gas tungsten arc welding torch) to one and connect a cable leading to a work-lead clamp to the other. The polarity required determines if the work lead runs from the + or – stud.

“The work lead does not ground anything.”
When you’re installing welding equipment, that statement is critical to remember. OSHA requires that your equipment be grounded to protect people from electric shock. The way equipment is grounded has nothing to do with the + or – stud on the front of the welding machine.

Grounding is accomplished through the permanently attached power connection supplying the machine (the plug), or by a separate clamp and wire connecting the case or frame of the machine to ground (like the building). Sometimes both the plug and one of these wire connections is used. Again, they have nothing to do with the + or – stud on the machine.

ANSI Z49.1, Safety in Welding, Cutting, and Allied Processes requires that the work table also be grounded. This is accomplished with a cable connected to the table or positioner, from a driven rod or often the building. Again I clarify, this has nothing to do with the + or – studs.

In the interest of protecting people and equipment, everyone would be better off referring to the leads coming off a power source as an electrode lead and a work lead, or a positive lead and a negative lead, but neither is ever considered to be a ground.

[Source Article: TheFabricator.com]


Ground Connection: A safety connection from a welding machine frame to the earth. See Workpiece Connection for the difference between work connection and ground connection.

Workpiece Connection: A means to fasten the work lead (work cable) to the work (metal to be welded on). Also, the point at which this connection is made. One type of work connection is made with an adjustable clamp.

Workpiece Lead: The conductor cable or electrical conductor between the arc welding machine and the work.



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