Many gas and arc welding processes generate a lot of fumes. However, the generation of the amount of fume depends on the welding process or procedure and consumables. Also, the following aspects influence the degree of exposure of the welder to fumes –
- Position of welding
- Location of workplace
- Type of workplace
- Duration of exposure
Let us understand the welding fumes. They are a mixture of silicates, metallic oxides, and fluorides. The fumes from when one heats the metal above its boiling point and its vapors condense into very fine solid particles. These fumes generally contain the particles that come out from the electrode and the material under the welding process.
Welding processes such as the flux core arc welding (FCAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW or MIG), and tungsten inert gas welding (GTAW or TIG) produce extremely toxic fumes consisting of metals and gases.
An over-exposure to welding fumes is exceptionally harmful, causing lung damage, various types of cancer (including larynx, lung and urinary tract), metal fume fever, kidney damage, stomach ulcers, and damage the nervous system.
Nowadays, weld monitoring equipment and weld monitoring products are proving to be highly beneficial for the welding industry. Due to Weld monitor equipment like gas flow monitor (GFW), arc data monitor, smart sensor, Weld process monitor (WPM), there is a lot of control over welding activities. Furthermore, it helps protect the welders from any risk arising out of welding activities and the welding fumes. Also, weld monitoring equipment and products necessitate the use of proper equipment and high-quality welding products that manage any residual fuel even when welding outdoors.
Weld monitoring products ensure a better quality of weld while providing a record of compliance and thereby enhancing the welding operator’s safety.
Some of the ways to protect the welders from the fumes
- Wearing respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
- One should not be standing in front of the airflow, pushing fumes away from the workplace.
- There should be the right positioning of the face, which should be as far away from the fumes as possible.
- Usage of a small cooling fan to blow the fumes away from the workplace
- Usage of a proper ventilation system
- There should be a removal of any coatings and paint from the metal before welding upon it. This process will avoid the production of other toxic gases when fusing the metal along with layers.
- When welding in confined spaces, there should be a proper ventilation system, and if one cannot avoid the fumes, they should wear a respirator with good filtration.
- The choice of any welding process depends on the requirement of weld quality, the economics or the budget, and proper equipment availability. If possible, one should invest in weld monitoring products and well monitoring equipment for a controlled welding process and safe welding.
Welding Safety Precautions
Following are some of the safety precautions to be taken while carrying out the welding activities –
- Usage of welding helmets which protect from UV radiation, debris, welding particles, hot slag, and burns from chemicals
- Usage of respirators for protection from oxides and fumes which the welding process creates
- Wearing fire resistant clothing
- Using ear protection equipment
- Using boots and gloves