Welding fumes: How to keep your workers safe?

A safe work environment is essential, the dangers that surround us are not always obvious. That’s why it’s important to be aware of possible risks, within a work environment. In the welding industry, one of the elements that may seem insignificant but that should never be neglected is welding fumes. When metal is heated above the boiling point, it produces fumes that condense into very fine solid particles, invisible to the naked eye. These fumes are extremely harmful to workers, causing short and long term consequences, and can even be fatal.

Several factors contribute to the possible dangers of welding fumes, including the composition of the metals, the concentration of the fumes and the duration of exposure. It’s also important to note that, although it’s believed that only welders are at risk of this toxic smoke since they are directly exposed to it, it is just as harmful to workers around them.

welding fumes with fume arms

Better safe than sorry

There are several welding techniques and each of these processes produces fumes that can be harmful to workers. These dust fumes are so small that they can easily reach the alveolar region of the respiratory system, causing significant damage. Hence the importance of capturing and eliminating them as quickly as possible.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has officially recognized welding fumes as a carcinogen. According to the Occupational Cancer Research Center, 310 lung cancers are caused by exposure to welding fumes each year in Canada. Beryllium, chromium, nickel and zinc, among others, can be very irritating to the respiratory system and, in cases of significant exposure, can result in breathing difficulties, shortness of breath and coughing . A syndrome called smelter’s fever can also occur, appearing within hours of exposure. Symptoms are similar to the flu and include high fever, chills, chest tightness, coughing, muscle aches and irritation of the respiratory system, and reappear with each exposure to the fumes.

Several kinds of pathologies can be caused by exposure to the pollutants contained in welding fumes, they’re divided into two categories:

Acute pathologies: Sudden appearance and rapid evolution over a short period of time

  • Pulmonary edema (Ozone, nitrogen oxide, phosgene)
  • Metal fever (zinc, copper and magnesium oxides)
  • Asthma ( Rosin, toluene diisocyanate, formaldehyde )
  • Toxic pneumonia ( Manganese, cadmium and beryllium oxides )

Chronic pathologies: Long term condition, which evolves slowly

  • Pneumoconiosis ( Iron, aluminum, tin, beryllium )
  • Chronic bronchitis (nitrogen, chromium, nickel, manganese, cadmium)
  • Attack of the central nervous system ( Aluminum, manganese )
  • Kidney damage ( Cadmium, lead, thorium dioxide )
  • Bronchopulmonary cancer ( Nickel, cadmium, beryllium, chromium compounds )

A spark can start a great fire

In addition to welding fumes that are harmful to workers’ health, there are remote chances welding could produce combustible gases and rubbles that could be just as dangerous. Depending on the type of metal being welded, the dusts can be extremely flammable. Aluminum, for example, is a material that is often used in the industry but it can be highly explosive, which is why it’s important to have a powerful and efficient capture arm to ensure that all hazardous elements are captured directly at the source. Concentration of flammable products from welding are minimal; when in doubt, have the fumes tested.

If your workshop is not adequately equipped, you’re not only endangering your workers but also your installations since a fire or an explosion can be possible consequences, which can result in injuries, fatalities and destruction of property. Best to invest in adequate preventive equipment, then risk of endangerment of employees and property.

How can AQC help you maintain a safe work environment?

The key phrase to remember: capture at the source! The faster welding smoke is drawn in, the lower its concentration is and the less the welder and workers will be exposed to it. AQC has a wide range of capture arms to meet the needs of your workshops and ensure outstanding protection for you and your employees. Robust, efficient and easy to handle, our capture arms are delivered fully assembled and have the shortest lead time on the market. To guarantee optimum air flow, all joints are external, thus avoiding any possibility of obstruction, accumulation of deposits and internal friction.

welding fumes extraction

For optimal protection of your workspaces, it is ideal to combine capture arms with a dust collector,especially for large workshops. Like the capture arm, the dust collector must be adapted to particular work environments and, as such,it’s important to rely on professionals when making your choice. At AQC, several options and customizations are possible to perfectly suit your needs, and all our dust collectors meet NFPA guidelines. In addition to giving you maximum safety, our dust collectors are energy efficient, as they’re equipped with highly effective cartridges allowing recirculation of clean air in your workshop.

With our exceptional delivery times and our personalized service, AQC is the reference you need to keep your workshops safe and your workers healthy! Do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

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