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How to remove welding fumes and prevent OSHA enforcement

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You may protect your welders with PPE and extraction systems, but that’s not enough. Welding fumes migrate around the entire factory. This puts all employees at risk, even if they aren’t near the welding station. We call this “pedestrianism,” and it’s a problem that could lead to OSHA enforcement, fines, or even legal trouble.

Welding fumes – the health risks

Companies often do an adequate job of protecting welders by using local extraction systems and PPE. Unfortunately, other workers in the plant are often overlooked, and move about the floor with no protection. This exposes them to the dangerous particles, smoke, haze, and mist escaping the welder work area and migrating to other areas of the plant. Without protection, they’re at a higher risk for illnesses like metal fume fever or even cancer.  

Not only is “pedestrianism” a risk for your employees; this disturbing trend can threaten your entire business. Poor air quality and lack of adequate protection is a combination that can easily lead to OSHA violations, major fines, or even legal trouble.  If you think the solution is to extract the air outside your facility, think again. This can put you at risk for EPA enforcement and introduce dangerous pollutants to the surrounding area.  

So what is the solution? Employers who want to protect their workers and their business must collect welding fumes at the welding table and those that spread around the factory. And the only way to do that is through a professional air cleaning system. 

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dangers of welding fume

Why are welding fumes so dangerous?

Prolonged exposure to welding fumes can lead to more serious conditions including chronic lung problems, larynx cancer, urinary tract cancer, ulcers, and kidney damage. Manganism syndrome, which is a result of exposure to manganese, has symptoms that are similar to Parkinson’s disease. 

Make no mistake: Without a solution for welding fumes, the air in your facility could cause serious, long-term health issues for your staff. 

Getting rid of welding fumes – a necessity, not a luxury

Welding creates smoke, mist, and haze that contain what are known as “fine” and “ultrafine” particles. These particles are so small, they easily migrate to other parts of the facility. 

Their size is also what makes them dangerous. Once inhaled, they can travel from the lungs into the bloodstream and other parts of the body. 

Take action now to protect your staff and business. Download our free guide to reducing welding fumes – you’re just a few clicks away. 

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Welding produces over 20 times more harmful dust than you’ll find in a busy metro area like New York – even if you’re using local extraction system.

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welding fume extraction with industrial air purification

How safe are extraction systems?

Extraction systems may seem like a good solution to reduce welding fumes. But they are often undersized for the work area and fail to remove all of the hazardous mist and smoke. Small particulate matter can still escape to other areas of the production floor, exposing other employees to heavy metals, oil mist, and causing a haze in the lights that can obstruct vision. 

Extraction systems simply can’t do what an industrial air cleaner can: Remove welding fumes at the source, before they have a chance to spread. 

The “pedestrianism” phenomenon: double the health hazards for people without PPE than for welders

We’ve crunched the numbers and found some shocking facts. Our air-quality measurements reveal that the concentration of welding fumes can actually be higher farther away from where the welding takes place. 

This demonstrates that a local extraction system alone is not doing its job to protect workers.  

Our research 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 employees working in other parts of your facility can be exposed to the same harmful welding fumes as the welders themselves – except these employees don’t have proper PPE.

Welding fumes – the health facts

Hazardous gases

According to the OSHA, welding can expose workers to heavy metals, gases, and fumes that make it harder to breathe in welding and non-welding areas.

Dizziness and Nausea

Exposure to welding fumes for even a short time can cause light-headedness, nausea, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. 

Damage to the Stomach and Kidney

Workers exposed to welding fumes may experience stomach ulcers or kidney damage.

Nervous System Impairment

Employees who sustain prolonged exposure to welding fumes can experience neurological damage and may experience symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. 


According to OSHA, prolonged exposure to welding fumes can lead to a number of different cancers, including lung, larynx, and urinary tract cancer.

Metal Fume Fever

Metal fume fever is a serious illness that causes such painful symptoms as chills, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, and headaches.

Protect your business – from OSHA enforcement, fines, legal action, higher insurance premiums, and more.

Bad air quality at work can have dire consequences for your business. Poor air quality can lead to OSHA complaints, higher absenteeism, and lower employee retention. If this happens, your company’s image and bottom line is going to suffer too. 

Beyond this, OSHA has strict guidelines when it comes to employee exposure to welding hazards.

If inspections show your business is not complying with permissible exposure limits and regulations designed to protect workers, OSHA could very well take further action that could threaten your business.  

Employers need to be proactive about air quality, and ensure their facility is safe for all. Read our free guide to understanding the dangers of welding fume and the best ways to deal with it. 

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What the employees say – three businesses using Zehnder air cleaners to keep pollution under control

“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 provides 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

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The verdict? Only a comprehensive air cleaning system will give you complete protection

To ensure total protection for your workers, fume extraction is often not enough. But fume extraction combined with an industrial air purification system creates a healthy work environment for everyone and keeps you OSHA compliant. 

This combination will thoroughly deal with welding fumes where they are produced and before they become a health risk not only to welders, but to other workers too. 

We recommend our air purifiers because: 

  • they are intelligent and able to adapt to changes in air quality at your factory
  • they can be customized to suit exactly what your business needs.

Your workers will repay you with higher satisfaction, better productivity, and an improved retention rate. What’s not to love about that? 

Contact us for a free site assessment at your facility or download our whitepaper. 

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