Occupational Health Hazards Of Welding Fumes
What Are Welding Fumes?
Welding fumes are the result of welding activities. Welding fumes are created when metal or other materials such as flux or solvents are heated above its boiling point and its vapours condense into very fine particles (solid particulates). Welding fumes normally contain oxides of the materials being welded and of the electrodes being used. If the metal has a coating or paint, these too can become part of the fumes.
Welding fumes contain particles from the electrode, the material, and coatings on the being welded.
What are the hazards of welding gases?
Electrocution, asphyxiation, UV radiation burns, hearing loss and welding fumes are just a few of the hazards faced by welders. Welding fumes contain their own hazards including:
- asphyxiation (lack of oxygen)
- fire or explosion
What are the contaminants found in Welding Fumes?
The airborne gases and fumes produced or present during welding can include nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, shielding gases like argon or helium, ozone, as well as metal fumes like manganese and chromium.
Why Are Welding Fumes Dangerous?
Your risk of inhaling welding fumes depends on how toxic and concentrated the fumes are and how long you were breathing in the fumes.
How Do Welding Fumes Harm My Body?
There are health effects for both short-term and long-term exposure to these gases and fumes.
Health Effects and Short-Term Exposure
Symptoms of short-term exposure to welding fumes in the workplace include eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as dizziness and nausea.
Health Effects and Long-Term Exposure
Symptoms of long-term exposure to welding fumes in the workplace include:
- Occupational asthma
- Metal fume fever
- Reduced lung function
- Stomach ulcers
- Kidney damage
- Nervous system damage
- Prolonged manganese exposure can cause Parkinson’s-like symptoms
- Cancer of the lungs, larynx, and urinary tract
Welders are at increased risk of respiratory tract infections from chemical irritation.
Who Needs To Be Concerned About the Occupational Health Hazards Welding Fumes?
Welders are at the highest risk for exposure to welding gases and fumes, but anyone who works near a welder can also inhale welding fumes, especially in confined spaces or indoors where fumes can’t escape, and hazardous levels can accumulate. In fact, workers who work in enclosed or confined spaces with a welder can have the same level of risk as the welder.
How to Mitigate Welding Hazards in the Workplace
Chemscape’s Mike Phibbs along with Michael K. Harris have written a practical field guild to help you communicate more effectively with welding shop and plant personnel.
Use this guide to develop similar exposure groups and learn about local exhaust ventilation, welding fume as an IARC Group 1 carcinogen, and exposure control banding. With several handy color-coded tables and graphics, assessing hazards and managing welding health hazards is easier than ever!
Supplement traditional IH assessment methods for welding with new control banding approaches.
Gain a deeper understanding of welding hazards and protect your worker’s health.
Purchase at the AIHA bookstore:
Welding Health and Safety: A Field Guide for OEHS Professionals, 2nd edition
How can Control Banding Be Used to Control Welding Fumes?
Chemscape has developed a slideshow on how Control Banding can be used to control exposure for common welding activities. View the slides below to learn more.
Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.