Effects from Exposure to Welding Fumes

McCarthy Environmental have a number of exhibitions in the coming months which will showcase a number of extraction and filtration products that can be incorporated within your work facility to improve your working environment.

We are trying to create awareness about effects of exposure to fumes within the workplace, specifically welding fume. Welding fume has a number of risks when inhaled, but the effects from breathing these fumes in can cause a number of health issues some of them develop very quickly, others can take years. Some of the effects from regular exposure to welding fume are;

Pneumonia

Many welders can develop lung infections which eventually progresses into pneumonia. With modern medicines, the infection caused by weld fume can be halted, although there are still severe cases. The HSE have estimated that 40 – 50 welders each year end up in hospital due to exposure from welding fume. About 2 welders die each year, due to Pneumonia. The common perception is that only the older members of the workforce are affected; in actual fact all ages can suffer from these effects.

Occupational Asthma

This has been reviewed by the HSE recently and results from tests carried out have concluded that welding fume cannot be confirmed as a direct cause of asthma.  Although around ten welders each year develop asthma at a level where they must stop working. HSE advises welders to protect themselves from weld fumes with equipment provided by their employer.

Cancer

Obviously the word nobody wants to hear. Welding fume is known internationally to be classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans, but this is mainly caused from stainless steel welding but not limited to solely stainless. All types welding fume are classified carcinogenic.

Metal Fume Fever

A type of illness that causes similar symptoms to that of a person catching a flu. This illness is more frequently caused from exposure to welding galvanized steel, although high levels of exposure to mild steel welding can cause these effects.

Temporary reduced lung function

Lung capacity is reduced and ease of breathing is affected, with symptoms worsening through the working week.

(Health and Safety Executive. 2017. Illness caused by welding fume and gases. These are available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/welding/illness.htm.)

There is no need and no excuse for workers/operators to be exposed to welding fume within the workplace. The equipment available today to prevent exposure is more capable than it ever has been. As an employer, there are a number of routes to go down to protect your workers. A highly effective route would be to install LEV. LEV will control the airborne contaminant and remove it from the workplace, protecting everyone. It is for this reason; LEV is a more effective and safer solution than solely using PPE/RPE.

As far as obtaining a solution by using LEV, the correct type of LEV must be applied to each individual process. As every process is different, an LEV system must be designed correctly to ensure effective control of contaminant. Effective capture can be obtained using a number of different methods, such as:

  • Flexible capture arms
  • Welding booths
  • On torch extraction
  • Downdraft benches

Although each LEV system should be designed to effectively control contaminant produced from process, with welding it is unlikely all fumes will be controlled. The highest effective capture rate is normally around 95%.  In many cases where LEV systems have been installed, background welding fume is still present in the atmosphere; a supplementary type of extraction method can be used. A type of supplementary extraction would be the ESTA Filtower. The Filtower is capable of filtering large quantities of contaminated air and re-circulating it, providing a supply of clean air to the workforce.

To find out more about any of the above or to discuss any requirements in greater detail, call 01604 635333 or email us here.

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