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Beware from Welding Fumes

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Fume-hazards are integral part of the welding job.

Unless welding is performed in a vacuum enclosure, like some types of Electron Beam Welding or under water.

Welding fumes are liberated to the atmosphere from base and filler metals and from occasional contaminants that may be present nearby.

Fumes and gases contain hazardous substances which can undermine, in the long term, the health of welders or bystanders, unless suitable precautions are implemented.

Fumes include metallic and other solid suspended particles likely to remain for a long time in the air.

Fume-hazards come from the fumes being breathed in, with the particles of carcinogenic substances being deposited in the lungs and in the respiratory tract.

The Fume-hazards will depend on the type of welding, the materials (base metals, surface coatings, electrodes) to be welded, and the environmental conditions (outside or in a confined space).

Fume-hazards must be removed

Safety regulations may speak of protection from overexposure from fumes and gases, intending reference to the specific limits established by regulating agencies.

However this definition is misleading, because practical means are lacking to determine if a certain concentration of contaminants exceeds or not the limits.

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The following documents on Fume-hazards were issued by AWS:

ANSI/AWS F1.1M:2006
Method for sampling Airborne Particulates generated by welding and allied processes
American Welding Society / 16-Feb-2006 / 24 pages

ANSI/AWS F1.2-99
Laboratory Method for Measuring Fume Generation Rates and Total Fume Emission of Welding and Allied Processes
American Welding Society / 01-May-1999 / 19 pages

ANSI/AWS F1.3M:2006
A Sampling Strategy Guide for Evaluating Contaminants in the Welding Environment
American Welding Society / 06-Jul-2006 / 32 pages

ANSI/AWS F1.5M:2003
Methods for Sampling and Analyzing Gases from Welding and Allied Processes
American Welding Society / 04-Jun-2003 / 56 pages

ANSI/AWS F1.6:2003
Guide for Estimating Welding Emissions for EPA Ventilation Permit Reporting
American Welding Society / 25-Feb-2003 / 18 pages

AWS F3.2M/F3.2:2001
Ventilation Guide for Weld Fume
American Welding Society / 01-Jan-2001 / 10 pages

Fumes and Gases in the Welding Environment
American Welding Society / 01-Jan-1987 / 232 pages

Unfortunately these can hardly be considered practical means for continuous monitoring of shop conditions.

The difficulty with the issue of Fume-hazards is with the welders themselves.

Those who should be most interested in effective implementation of preventive measures, risk to dismiss the danger as theoretical at best and not imminent and real.

This is because the ill effects may not be immediate but cumulative in a long time.

Welders may be under pressure imagined or real from their employer to work in whatever conditions available, without caring for their health and rights.

They may relinquish their rights to insist that proper Fume-hazards prevention means be put in place and operational.

Welders have the largest part of responsibility in caring for their own health. But management cannot hide behind pretexts.

A sloppy welding environment should not be tolerated even in those parts known as third world.

Welders should know that little recognition of responsibility from the part of the employer or of Courts can be expected once the welder's health is severely compromised.

Manipulative lawyers will argue that the cause and effect condition between fume presence and health damages is not demonstrated.

Furthermore that certain life habits of the welder (like smoking) or coexistent ailments may have aggravated the clinical picture to the point that the main thesis (the employer's responsibility) is untenable.

The time to act is while welding. If working condition are unsafe, the maximum effort must be done to improve them until they are dangerous no more.

A negligent shop management may care only to pass the infrequent shop inspections without being requested to invest significant money in unproductive expenses.

Welding should be avoided in enclosed spaces where concentration could build up to dangerous levels unless proper measures are implemented to remove Fume-hazards.

The best prevention would be to provide adequate ventilation.

But there is a limit that should not be approached, where shielding gases or protective atmospheres might be removed from the weld too early, when their action is needed to produce sound welds.

That is why welding outdoors could be preferred, except that suitable shielding should be provided locally around the welds, to guarantee at any time adequate coverage of the welds by protective atmosphere.

If sufficient ventilation is not assured at all times, then local fixed or movable hoods with fume extractors, or exhaust fans should be provided to remove positively Fume-hazards from the space where welders work.

Search pages with a selection of Welding Fume Extractors, are reached by clicking on the underlined link.

Browse through the individual Product Description above by clicking on any item of the search pages.

Wherever the conditions are such that adequate ventilation cannot be assured or fume extractors are impractical, personal respiratory protective equipment should be made available to all workers.

Uncontaminated air is thereby positively supplied through masks or welding helmets.

Welders however might feel encumbered or hampered by the heavy equipment: they should be properly instructed and trained, and supervised to comply with the requirement to use such Fume-hazards protective aids.

Welding fume health hazards

The following documents should be consulted and every effort should be exerted to implement the essential requirements to protect all welders from Fume-hazards.

Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Welding Fumes

Welder’s Guide to the Hazards of Welding Gases and Fumes
(16 pages)

Safety and Health - Fact Sheet No. 1 October 2005
© 2005 American Welding Society
Fumes and Gases (3 pages)

A Guide to Welding Fume Control

A Guide to Health Hazards and Hazard Control

An Education in Welding Fume Extraction

Welding Fume Assessment

An Article on The Dangers of Hexavalent Chromium was published (7) in Issue 88 of Practical Welding Letter for December 2010.
Click on PWL#088 to see it. Read also the Bulletin 56, attached there, for Online References to other pertinent publications on the subject.

An Article on Welding Fume Mitigation was published (7) in Issue 133 of Practical Welding Letter for September 2014.
Click on PWL#133 to see it.

An Article on Inadequate Remedies may fail Fume Control Requirements was published (11) in Issue 154 of Practical Welding Letter for June 2016.
Click on PWL#154.

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