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Why Are Welding Fumes Bad For You?

Welding fumes are a constant hazard to all industrial workers. Fumes of any sort can pose serious health risks to the average worker. However, welding fumes should not be the only concern; particles of all sorts are ‘airborne contaminants’, which also pose a risk to anyone who breathes them in.

We are all aware of the severe impacts of asbestosis, and its links to developing cancer and mesothelioma. Now we are seeing outbreaks of silicosis in major industries, from stonemasonry to mining. This article outlines the potential fumes a standard fabricator or welder may be exposed to, the impact it can have on their health, and how Solar Whiz can provide a solution.

It is crucial to workers’ health and safety that all employers start considering welding fume extraction. Solar Whiz Commercial has you covered for ventilation of fumes and other airborne contaminants.

Familiarise yourself with the risks—Read Safe Work Australia’s workplace standards for airborne contaminants.

What’s Inside Welding Fumes?

Table of least to most fume emitting

Credit: Cancer Council Website

Gasses and fumes are produced during the welding process. The fumes produced depend on the materials being welded, but some examples include:

  1. Aluminium fumes
  2. Beryllium fumes
  3. Chromium fumes
  4. Copper fumes
  5. Iron oxides
  6. Lead fumes
  7. Nickel fumes
  8. Zinc fumes

This wide range of gasses causes symptoms varying from minor respiratory discomfort to acute irritation and metal fume fever. While some effects are temporary and easily treated with rest, many fumes have been recognised as carcinogenic or otherwise dangerous to long-term health.

There are a range of different methods that can be used to manage the risks associated with working in a hazardous environment (read more on the Cancer Council’s page dedicated to welding fumes), but these are not perfect or always applicable. For example, submerged arc welding (SAW) is a fantastic way to suppress the immense amount of UV light and fumes that are generated without sacrificing the weld’s quality. However, SAW welding is difficult to perform on rounded or complicated surfaces, which make it impractical in some circumstances. This method also requires a strict handling procedure and recycling system in place to be truly effective.

Fume extraction is essential. Without it, airborne contaminants will build up inside a workspace or rise overhead. Left untreated, the particulate count can rise to unsafe levels and jeopardise the health of workers. There is plenty of documentation on exposure standards to make sure workers and employers understand the risks.

Want to learn more about welding fumes & gasses?—Read CCOHS’s Fact Sheet on welding fumes & gasses.

Welding Fume Extraction

General ventilation systems […] may be useful to control minor emissions of contaminants of low toxicity. In designing a (ventilation) system, particular attention should be paid to fan selection and to the placement of air extractors and fresh air supply openings. In particular, the movement of air should be arranged so that clean air streams are drawn past workers and contaminated ones lead away from them.

Safe Work Australia

on Welding – Fumes and Gases

3× SW-RAF10000 units

Some Solar Whiz Commercial RAF10000 units overhead a fabricator’s workstation

Many businesses rely on passive whirlybird extractors, but these are ineffective and don’t achieve results that keep workers safe. The main issues with whirlybirds are:

  1. Reliance on wind & heat – It is not always going to be hot or windy. In wintertime, it is entirely possible for a whirlybird to move no air at all.
  2. Poor performance – Your average residential whirlybird scarcely moves 100m³/h. Commercial-grade whirlybirds feature better throat size and machinery, but still under-perform compared to powered ventilators.
  3. Prone to seizing – Have a look at some whirlybirds on the roofs of homes or businesses. You’ll likely spot one or two whirlybirds in a group that aren’t moving, while the rest are. Ball bearings can rust or be jammed, which prevents a whirlybird from working at all.

Solar Whiz Commercial can provide up to 10,000m³/h of uninterrupted airflow. Direct overhead extraction removes fume build-up and replaces it with fresh outdoor air. Aside from ventilating fumes, you also guarantee a cooler, more comfortable workplace for you and your staff.

Takeaway Thoughts for Fume Extraction

With the risks caused by fumes and gasses becoming more apparent, it is important to protect your business. Read more about commercial ventilation here to find out why Solar Whiz is the market leader for solar commercial ventilation.

Interested in powerful commercial ventilation? Get a quote for your business.

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