The fumes from welding are very dangerous. They’re a mixture of various materials, including particles from the electrodes, the flux, the metals being welded, coatings on the filler, and other materials. This can include silicas, metal silicates, fluoride fumes, steel additives like chromium, nickel, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, titanium, cobalt, copper, and others, hexavalent chromium from stainless steel, oils, rust inhibitors, zinc – the list goes on.
Needless to say, breathing in any of this is awful.
“Metal fume fever is a disease most often associated with welders. Welding may cause pulmonary inflammation from the submicron particles of metal oxides in the fumes. Most often, the metal oxide is zinc oxide, but cadmium and manganese and their oxides are also present in some welding processes. Metal fume fever presents as a flu-like syndrome with fever, malaise, bronchospasm, and bi-weekly variations in severity. Symptoms are classically weakest on Sundays and strongest after returning to work on Mondays and Tuesdays.” – NCBI.
Metal Fume Fever is just one of the many hazards of welding. Other respiratory hazards, particularly prolonged and continued exposure, can include lung cancers and more. For the health, happiness, and continued productivity of your welding operators, you need some means of protecting them from those fumes.
While masking is a good idea, you also want to do anything you can to remove those hazardous fumes from the environment. OSHA has specifications for ventilation, but one thing that can help is a fume extractor.
Welding is a hazardous occupation, especially when working indoors and in enclosed spaces. Welding dangers become increasingly hazardous the tighter the welding space gets. So, welding fume extractors, eye protection, fire safety measures, and other safety protocols and devices use become that much more critical.
Welding indoors, especially in tight spots like pressure vessel welding, can easily expose the welding operators to hazardous levels of welding fumes, arc flash, burns, physical injuries, electrocution, and other welding hazards.
By guest blogger and former shipyard welder David H.
How important is it to remove welding smoke from the work area? Ask a welder, or ask someone who has to work in the vicinity of welders working in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas.
I recall some years ago working on a Navy general cargo ship. The ship was was undergoing extensive renovations and the hold of the had four or five levels. My employer, a small repair yard in San Francisco, unfortunately did not take air quality in the work area seriously. There were more than 20 of us working in the hold, and some number of us were welders. From a distance you could see where the work was being done — smoke and fumes drifting up out of the hold! In those days, safety requirements weren’t always top of mind. OSHA and other regulations aside, taking care of your workers by providing a safe work environment is simply the right thing to do. Without them your business can never be profitable. By failing to provide a safe workplace, you may lose workers due to health issues and employee turnover or face consequences for not complying with standards.
“respirators are hot and uncomfortable, and many welders simply refuse to use them”
Fume Removal Options
There are a number of ways to deal with welding fume issues. One approach is the use of respirators. I often wore one, but they are hot and uncomfortable, and many welders simply refuse to use them. They can be remarkably expensive, over the long haul, given that filters must be replaced daily. If the mask is a disposable type, the entire mask must be replaced daily.
Portable Smoke Extractors
Portable smoke extractors – sometimes referred to as smoke eaters – are a far better solution. They remove a higher percentage of the fumes than respirator masks and protect everyone in the work area, not just the welders. They can be moved around the job site and from one job site to another, but can also be set up at permanent work stations. These machines can help make sure that your work space is a place where people can get their work done safely. Your employees will thank you.
To view the smoke extractors Red-D-Arc offers for rent head over to our welding fume extractor rental page.
We also have used smoke extractors for sale on our used equipment page.
Smoke extractors are essential in the welding workplace to protect welders and other people from welding fumes. All metals produce harmful gasses, some even cause deadly conditions. Smoke extractors are designed to trap these fumes and gasses and prevent them from spreading to the welders breathing zone, clean air is then recycled back into the air. Smoke extractors also prevent failure to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration welding ventilation standards.
Smoke Extractor Options
Red-D-Arc offers two smoke extractors, SE1400 and SE1602W. The SE1400 Welding Fume Extractor includes a Snorvac 10’ fume extractor snorkel arm which captures fumes 12-20″ from the source within an area of 20″ diameter. The arm can be rotated 360 degrees and the unit rolls on wheels making a versatile and flexible filtration unit that can be moved between work stations. The SE1602W Welding Fume Extractor is lightweight, stainless steel enclosed and suitcase-size making it easily portable. It includes two suction levels while two hoses are available to fit your needs. Both models provide a high volume and high degree of filtration- up to 99.9% efficiency. Washable and reusable or disposable filters are available.
Dangerous Fumes Encountered in the Welding Process
The welding process involves various types of hazardous fumes that pose significant risks to human health. The most common hazardous fumes encountered during welding include metal oxide fumes (such as zinc, lead, and chromium), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These fumes are formed when the intense heat from welding causes the metal to vaporize and react with the surrounding atmosphere. When inhaled, these fumes can lead to a range of health issues. Metal fumes can cause metal fume fever, which exhibits flu-like symptoms, while nitrogen oxides and ozone irritate the respiratory system and can worsen existing lung conditions. Carbon monoxide is highly toxic, leading to oxygen deprivation, dizziness, and in severe cases, unconsciousness or death. Prolonged exposure to these hazardous fumes can result in chronic respiratory diseases, neurological disorders, and other severe health complications, making proper ventilation and respiratory protection crucial for welders and those in close proximity to welding operations.
Red-D-Arc rents both portable smoke extractors and larger welding fume extractors suitable for fabrication shops.