Safeguard workers from harmful welding fume

Welding creates smoke that contains dangerous gas by-products and metal fume. Take the appropriate steps to help protect workers and reduce the risk of injury and illness from harmful welding fume.                                  

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), welding fume poses numerous health risks. Short exposure to fume can cause dizziness, and nausea, and irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Workers with these symptoms should find fresh air and seek medical attention right away. Extended exposure can damage lungs and result in various types of cancer, such as lung, urinary tract, and larynx.

Some gases used in welding or created by welding, including argon, helium, and carbon dioxide, replace the oxygen in the air and could suffocate workers, especially in enclosed work areas. Welding can also form carbon monoxide, which can cause asphyxiation.

Tips OSHA provides to help workers stay safe during welding operations include:

•    Educate welders on the hazards of welding and the materials being welded
•    Remove toxic coatings, like solvents and paint, from welding surfaces
•    Encourage employees to position themselves to avoid inhaling welding fume and gases. Outdoor workers should remain upwind during welding
•    Weld in a well-ventilated area and, when possible, use an exhaust system to remove fume from the area. Welding outdoors does not guarantee optimum ventilation. When welding in an area with no ventilation or exhaust system, workers should pay attention to the natural movement of air so they can position their work in a way that will expose their coworkers and themselves to the smallest possible amount of fume
•    To remove the maximum amount of fume when using an exhaust system, keep hoods, vacuum nozzles, and extractor guns close to the plume source
•    Consider using a welding method or consumable that is less toxic or produces lower fume
•    Provide respiratory protection whenever exposure cannot be reduced to a safe level

Welding is a common practice in construction, manufacturing, and many other industries. Reduce health issues and injuries by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) like welding glovesprotective clothing, and welding, heat, and electrical arc head and face protection.

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