Many companies try to control welding fume with spot extraction systems (LEV), cleaning and welding curtains. But all these conventional precautions offer only moderate protection from harmful fumes and the illnesses they cause.
Only a zero-tolerance approach will ensure proper protection of your whole workforce. This means collecting all welding fumes at source – and before they spread around the entire factory.
Fall short of this approach and your workers risk illnesses such as asthma, metal fume fever (also known as welding shivers), the lung disease pneumoconiosis, and even cancer.
As if this were not enough – did you know that standard LEV extraction systems pollute the environment when they blow the fumes outside?
The dangers from welding fumes are many and varied. These health risks (including lung disease and cancer) are mainly down to your limited options for controlling fumes, and the inefficiency of conventional welding fume extraction systems.
The smoke produced during welding is a mixture of harmful vapours and tiny dust particles. Welding fume contains what are known as “fine” and “ultrafine” particles. Some of these are so small they are particularly dangerous to anyone breathing them in, because they can travel from your lungs into your bloodstream and other parts of the body.
Did you know it is nearly 10 times healthier to spend the day exposed to the dirt and exhaust fumes of a big city like London, than to be on the welding factory floor?
So what should you do about this? Check out our free guide for useful tips and solutions – you’re just a few clicks away.
We’ve crunched the numbers and found some shocking facts. Our air quality measurements reveal that the concentration of welding fumes is actually higher away from where the welding takes place.
We found that unprotected staff working elsewhere in the factory, or walking from one area to another, can be exposed to twice as much harmful pollution as the welders themselves.
We call this phenomenon “pedestrianism”. It means, when you boil it down, that some unprotected workers would be safer standing right next to a welder than working – or walking – nearby.
According to the HSE, welding can produce hazardous gases including nitrous oxides and ozone.
The HSE estimates that 40 - 50 welders are hospitalised each year in the UK after breathing in metal fume at work.
Welders are at an increased risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia. About two welders a year die of pneumonia.
Gases and fine particles in welding fume can cause dryness of the throat, coughing or tightness in the chest.
Exposure to any welding fume can cause lung cancer. It is estimated that 152 of the UK’s 200,000 welders die each year from work-related cancer.
According to the HSE, nine welders a year get asthma so severely that they can no longer work and need to claim benefits.
Let’s not beat about the bush: bad air quality at work can have dire consequences for your business.
Poor air quality can lead to employee complaints, more absences and more frequent staff turnover. If this happens, your company’s reputation is going to suffer too.
And don’t forget the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE says it will no longer accept any welding “undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place”.
If inspections show your business is not complying with tough regulations designed to protect workers, the HSE will have something to say about it and has the right to prosecute.
This is in addition to possible claims from staff who are able to show their working environment falls short of required standards and has caused them health problems.
In other words you need to demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to welding fume and are not just ticking boxes. Read our free guide to understanding the dangers of welding fume and the best ways to deal with it.
“Since the installation I have noticed a considerable improvement in the visual quality of the air, over all areas of the factory. And according to a recent report, annual readings of our indoor air quality is approximately 60 % cleaner than the pre-installation readings.”
Kate Burgess, Aerofab Fabrications Ltd
"The results of the dust measurements were a clear warning signal that we need to protect not only our facilities but especially our employees from the very high levels of air pollution. Shortly after installing the air purification systems, the air was much clearer and our employees gave us very positive feedback. Overall, we have much less dust on machines and equipment.”
Frank Schneider, Fischer Rohrtechnik GmbH
“The Zehnder team provide a very efficient and responsive service. Our Account Manager talked us through our service and the results we gained, which we can then relay to the workforce to explain the benefits of the Zehnder system. All in all, a very effective service and a very good system that works. It’s a pleasure to work with Zehnder.”
Nick Dewa, SC4 UK Ltd