Welding Fumes - A Case Study
Welding is a fabrication process that uses high heat to melt metal or thermoplastic parts together and is an essential part of hundreds of businesses. There are over 12,000 welding jobs currently being held across our state. Every one of these welding operations are required to follow safety precautions in accordance with the MIOSHA Standards which were developed to ensure that workers are not being subjected to dangerous work environments. As equipment wears, processes change, and standards improve, companies that were once in compliance are no longer.
For example, MIOSHA received an employee complaint regarding the exposure to welding fumes in a metal fabrication shop. Indoor air quality testing found that the welders, who were working on aluminum parts and aluminum-based welding wire, were being exposed to significantly more fumes than the exposure limit allowed. Some of the reasons identified for the exceedances were inadequate ventilation and a blocked exhaust fan.
As a result of these findings, the following citations were issued:
The employer immediately implemented a respiratory protection program and began providing protection equipment for their employees. The employer then installed a system to remove welding fumes. The system was comprised of two continuous feed welding guns fitted with fume extractors and three adjustable 8” snorkel fume extractors. These systems reduced exposure below MIOSHA limits. Lastly, the company added hazard communication training and installed a curtain
For more information on how to control hazardous fumes and gases during welding check out this OSHA Fact Sheet. This sheet also lists the negative health effects of welding fumes such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, dizziness, and nausea. If anyone experiences these symptoms while welding, they should stop welding and seek fresh air.
If you have a welding operation and are not sure if you are in compliance, please reach out for a free consultation! CFR has been conducting Industrial Hygiene surveys for over 20 years!