Welding is undoubtedly dangerous to the professionals performing it due to the fumes and gases in the welding environment. If the workers are not properly protected there is a chance of inhaling toxic fumes generated through the process of welding metals.
There are different techniques through which metals are welded together:
- Oxy-fuel welding;
- Electric arc welding;
- MAG welding;
- MIG welding;
- TIG welding;
- Resistance welding;
- Laser welding;
- Thermal cutting;
- Thermal spraying.
Some rely on the metals connecting on their own after being partially melted and others rely on additional filling metal, fed in the middle of the welds. The types of metals that we are welding together and the type of filler we would use will produce different welding fumes and gases.
Definition of welding fumes
Welding fumes are a mixture of:
- metallic oxides;
Fumes are formed when we heat up the metals above their boiling point. At this point, the vapours condense into fine, particles (solid particulates). Welding fumes generally contain particles from the electrode (filler metals) and the material being welded.
How are welding fumes dangerous
Inhaling welding fumes can cause ill effects such as:
- Irritation to the throat and lung airways – Symptoms are dryness of the throat, tightness in the chest and coughing. The effects usually don’t stick for too long;
- Irritant induced asthma – If a large number of irritants are present in the environment there is a chance of developing irritant induced asthma. The condition is not common;
- Metal fume fever – This ill effect could be seen in people that are manipulating galvanised metals with heat. It also appears in workers that were exposed to mild steel weld fumes for too long. The effects wear off once the exposure ends;
- Acute pneumonia – Due to the fact that welders inhale welding fumes on a regular basis, they are prone to lung infections that can lead to severe pneumonia.
Welding fume can also inflict chronic respiratory health effects like lung cancer, occupational asthma and others.
Definition of welding gases
Welding gases are both gases used and produced during the welding procedures. Or produced by the interaction between ultraviolet light or high temperatures with gases and vapours already present in the air.
Types of welding gases:
- carbon dioxide;
- carbon monoxide;
- and others.
How are welding gases dangerous
Welding gases have ill effects on welders similar to those of welding fumes. They can also cause asthma, lack of oxygen and are toxic. Welding gases also irritate the eyes and lungs, cause irritant induced asthma and others. The chronic respiratory ill effects of welding gases are the same as with welding fumes.
However, welding gases might just be even more dangerous. Some of those gases are extremely flammable and can be the cause of fire hazards and even explosions.
How to protect yourself and employees from welding fumes and gases
First and foremost, you need to think about the way you’re handling day to day tasks at your workspace. You will need to establish a procedure that limits the situations in which there might be welding fumes and gases produced in the air. Consider cold-joining methods where you can. Of course, that will not be possible in some cases. This is when respiratory protection equipment (RPE) comes in handy. You will also need to provide proper ventilation in the facility. Local exhaust systems are mandatory. They will suck out dangerous fumes and welding gases out of the area of breathing right after they are released in the air.
The degreaser baths and container in the welding facility must be kept sealed. Workers should only weld materials that are completely dried from solvents and are well cleaned from protective coatings and paint.
Last but not least, respiratory protection is not a substitute for proper mechanical ventilation and local exhaust systems. It should be used alongside those methods in order to provide a large spectre of protection to you and your employees.
If you are in the search for a welding extraction system, you are at the right place. If you need some guidance picking the right product don’t hesitate to call our experienced representatives at 01455 616444. At Ducting Express, we will happily assist you in creating a safe and productive working environment for professional, semi-professional or hobby welders alike. There is the right equipment for everybody.