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Are welding fumes turning your workplace toxic?

05/17/24 3 min reading time Metal fabricationWelding shopsWelding fumes

You may provide your welders with PPE to protect them while they are working, but what about the ultra-fine particles that are released into the air as part of the process? Here's why welding fumes are a bigger issue than most people understand, and what to do about it. 

welding hazards employee protection

Welding: Essential but also dangerous?

Welding is a vital part of the production processes in so many industries – without it, we wouldn't have houses, airplanes, cars, and all of the vital infrastructure that keeps our country running. But despite its many applications, welding can cause serious health issues, not just for welders but for anyone who works in a facility where welding takes place. Here's why:

  • Welding fumes are very light, which means they can linger in the air for days, even after welding is done
  • The particles in welding fumes can also travel long distances, so they are easily inhaled by people far from the welding station 
  • This false sense of security means people may forgo PPE, completely unaware that they're at risk

Zehnder conducted a small study into this issue and found something alarming: The highest concentration of welding fumes in a production facility wasn't right where the welding was taking place. In fact, the most dangerous areas were in other parts of the facility, where no one was wearing protective equipment.  

This is why business owners need to shift their mindset, and consider welding fumes as a threat to everyone working at the company. This means taking precautions beyond traditional PPE and extraction systems. 

Why are welding fumes so dangerous?

We've discussed how easily welding fumes spread around a production facility, but why is that such a big deal? According to The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it's because inhaling welding fumes can lead to serious health issues. 

There are three types of gasses that are generated during welding processes: 

  • Ozone 
  • Nitrous gases  
  • Carbon monoxide 

These gases are all carried by welding fumes, the particles of which are so fine, they are classified as respirable dust. In other words, they're small enough to get deep into your workers' lungs, where they can cause grave health problems.  

The health hazards of welding fumes

If you work in a facility where welding takes place, you should be on the look out for the following symptoms, which can suggest someone has been inhaling welding fumes:  

  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Symptoms similar to a cold

If inhaled over an extended period of time, welding fumes can lead to far more serious health problems. These include:

  • Lung and throat cancers, among other types of cancer 
  • Chronic respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD

OSHA's documentation on welding fumes also lists issues like kidney damage and stomach ulcers, and long-term exposure can even lead to "Parkinson's-like symptoms."

What happens if you don't act?

As an employer, you should always have the health of your employees top of mind. But without proper welding fume extraction systems, there are other issues you need to worry about too:

  • More sick day requests and lower productivity overall 
  • Inability to retain staff or attract new talent
  • A damaged corporate image

Welding fumes can also cause you to fall short of the strict regulations around welding safety. This could lead to large fines for non-compliance, or even force you to shut down your business.

How to solve the issue of welding fumes

You may have effective protective gear for your welders, but that's simply not enough to keep everyone in your business safe from the harms of welding fumes. For that, there's really only one comprehensive solution. 

An air purification system, like those from Zehnder Clean Air Solutions, can extract the ultra-fine particles from welding fumes out of the air before they have a chance to circulate or end up in your employees' lungs.

This solution goes beyond simple welding fume extraction – it's a way to make sure both your employees and your business are safe from this dangerous issue. Don't take clean air for granted; act now to keep everyone protected.

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