The welding industry is not a glamorous place, even if you do harbour secret dreams of becoming a professional dancer. It is both harsh and unforgiving, but it can be greatly rewarding too. There are lots of different reasons why a person might choose to become a welder – they enjoy technical work, they have a mathematical mind, or they simply relish the chance to work in a high pressure environment. It’s a job that is rarely described as boring, that’s for sure. Yet, just like any industry, it comes hand in hand with certain dangers – primarily, the risk of illness caused by fumes and gases.
It can be difficult to predict exactly how an individual will be affected by welding fumes, as some people naturally have a higher tolerance than others. In high enough does, however, these fumes and gases pose a risk to all and welders must take certain steps to protect themselves. These steps can include, but are not limited to, face masks and shields, LEV testing, industrial filters, high vacuum accessories and mobile extraction units. With the help of a reliable fume extraction company like Climavent, it is more than possible for welding managers and supervisors to keep their teams safe during lengthy operations.
As well as supplying dust and fume extraction systems to the welding industry, Climavent also provides other products – booths, filters, down draught benches and routine testing and services carried out by specially trained engineers. If it is your job to get the job done, it is our job to make sure that you stay safe for its entire duration. We tailor our extraction services and solutions to the individual client, so you don’t have to worry about the health and safety of a single on-site welder. At Climavent we believe that protection starts with information. If you’re clued up on the dangers, you are much less likely to fall victim to them – here is a guide to the dangers of welding fumes.
Pneumonia – without the right protection, welders can develop an increased risk of various different diseases and infections. One such infection is pneumonia, a serious lung condition that can be fatal if not properly treated. Whilst there are lots of modern antibiotics available to treat pneumonia these days, it can still land a welder in hospital. The HSE estimates that 40-50 welders are hospitalised with pneumonia every year after breathing metal fumes. The infection kills two welders every year, and it affects young people just as severely as it does older workers.
Occupational Asthma – the link between welding fumes and occupational asthma is not quite as clear as the link between welding and pneumonia, but there is enough evidence to suggest a shared relationship. Although the HSE does not have enough scientific evidence to list the condition as an official risk of welding (without protection), it is known that around nine welders each year contract severe occupational asthma – so severe, in fact, that it makes them eligible for disability benefits. In order to decrease the risk of developing occupational asthma, the HSE advises employers to provide workers with protective equipment.
Cancer – there are possible links between welding fumes and group 2B carcinogens, known to cause cancer in humans. The risk of cancer is traditionally associated with stainless steel welding, but there is evidence to suggest that all forms of welding carry a degree of risk. Whilst it is generally agreed that cancer can be a symptom of prolonged (and unprotected) exposure to harmful fumes and gases, it is not officially listed as a risk of welding, because the Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply Regulations do not take into account the by-products of an industrial process.
Metal Fume Fever – unlike the aforementioned conditions, metal fume fever is a short time side effect of prolonged exposure to welding fumes. It can be identified by its flu like symptoms, which tend to be worse at the outset and then fade as the body adapts to its environment. This condition is usually associated with hot work on galvanised metals, but it can be seen in welders who have spent large amounts of time around mild steel weld fumes and gases. It doesn’t usually have any lasting effects, but it can be jarring for new welders. There is a much propagated myth that says drinking milk will protect the body from metal fume fever, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is true.
Irritation Of Throat & Lungs – the gases and fine particles formed as a by-product of welding can cause dryness, tickling, coughing and tightness in the chest and throat. Once again, these effects do tend to be short lived. In some extreme cases, oedema (fluid on the lungs) can be a problem, but this will only happen after extreme exposure without any form of protection. It is also true that temporary reduced lung function has been recorded in welders who work fulltime – the effects tend to reach their peak towards the middle of a working week and then start to subside during the weekend.
Whilst the risks associated with welding fumes are understandably a little frightening at first, they don’t have to be something for workers to fear. There are very few, if any, industries on the planet that are completely risk free, so welding is no different to a thousand other potentially dangerous jobs. The right way to tackle these risks is with high quality safety and ventilation equipment, from a company that you can trust.
For more help and advice on keeping your welders safe, or for more information on the range of services and equipment available at Climavent – click here, or call one of our friendly advisors direct today on 01942 726164. With our help, it is okay to take safety for granted.