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Is welding fume turning your workplace into a death-trap?

Occupational safety is a top priority when it comes to something as dangerous as welding, but often the precautions taken don’t do enough to protect employees from the ultra-fine fumes that get released. Here’s why that matters and what you need to do. 

welding hazards employee protection

Welding: a blessing but also a curse?

Welding is an essential part of many production processes. We wouldn’t have aeroplanes, cars, houses, pipelines and much more without welding. But it can cause health issues even for those employees not directly involved with it. Here’s why: 

  • The particles in welding fumes are so light that they can hang in the air for many days 
  • They can also travel long distances, meaning they can be inhaled by people nowhere near the welding process 
  • This means they are not adequately protected because they don’t expect to be at risk 

We’ve conducted a mini study into this and found that the highest – and most dangerous – concentration of welding fumes in a production hall wasn’t actually where the welding was taking place. It was highest in other areas where nobody was wearing protective masks. 

This is exactly why you can’t ignore the dangers of welding fumes and need to take action beyond relying on protective equipment and conventional extraction systems. 

What makes welding fumes so dangerous?

We’ve already talked about how easy these fumes can spread around your workplace, but what makes that such a problem? The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes it clear that the gases contained in welding fumes are a health hazard 

The most common gases generated during welding are:  

  • Ozone 
  • Nitrous gases  
  • Carbon monoxide 

These are all carried by the fumes and because the particles are so fine, they are classed as respirable dust, which means they can get deep into your employees’ lungs, which can cause major problems. 

The health implications of welding fumes

So, what are the warning signs of somebody whose health has been affected by welding fumes? Here are some of the things you need to look out for:  

  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Cold symptoms

In the long term, exposure to welding fumes can cause serious health problems, including:  

  • Various forms of cancer, including lung and throat cancer 
  • Chronic respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD

The danger is so serious that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued an official safety alert as well as highlighting that welding fumes from structural steel can be a cause of cancer. 

The consequences of doing nothing

As an employer, the health of your employees should be a major concern, but the impact of welding fumes goes beyond that. Here are some of the other issues that this can cause:  

  • Increased absenteeism through illness 
  • High staff turnover 
  • A negative corporate image

You can also be risking falling foul of strict regulations around welding safety, which can lead to high fines for non-compliance or even your business being closed down. 

The solution to welding fume issues

The processes you may already have in place, like protective clothing for those doing the welding aren’t enough to protect everyone, so there’s only one comprehensive solution. 

Air purification systems, like those from market-leading Zehnder Clean Air Solutions, pull these ultra-fine particles out of the air before they can be transported around your workplace and inhaled. 

This protects your employees and protects you from the consequences of inaction. Clean air in the workplace can’t be taken for granted, so it’s time to find out how you can make yours safer for everyone. 

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