Hazard communication important for welding fumes and gases

Welders are vulnerable to a variety of health problems, making welding fumes and gas extraction systems crucial for worker safety.

welding fumes

As welding professionals know, gases and fumes associated with the job can lead to adverse health effects. Welding fumes pose an occupational risk as it could make workers vulnerable to illnesses and health problems, including fever, fatigue and paralysis, the American Society of Safety Engineers said in citing data from the National Safety Council. In complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s safety guidelines, employers should ensure their workers understand the risks involved with interacting with hazardous chemicals.

In OSHA’s report of the top 10 workplace safety violations of 2013, hazard communication ranked at No. 2 with 6,156 total violations, Reliable Plant said. Workplaces were cited if they failed to have a written program or have insufficient employee education or training in handling hazardous chemicals.

“We appreciate our colleagues at OSHA sharing their most recent data as we look toward leading safety into the future,” said National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Froetscher. 

A fact sheet issued by OSHA on hazardous fumes and gases encountered during welding emphasizes the need for safety precautions through education and fume extractor tools to reduce the risk of welding fume exposure.

How workers can prevent breathing in fumes
OSHA suggests that workers try to limit exposure to and inhalation of welding fumes by positioning themselves away from hazards, such as by staying upwind during open or outdoor welding. If workers feel as though they have symptoms of prolonged exposure to welding fumes, such as eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea, they should exit the area, find fresh air and seek medical attention. 

Advice for employers to maintain worker safety
In helping maintain the health and safety of welding workers, employers should have proper use of ventilation controls. Ventilation systems for welding fume extraction are crucial for preventing hazardous fumes and gases from affecting employees. OSHA advises firms to position fume hoods and fume extractor guns close to the plume source to maximize the amount of fumes and gases that are extracted.

Portable extraction systems are an effective way to keep welding fume away from workers wherever they are located within the facility. By having reliable fume extraction systems running where they are needed most, employers can limit the levels of hazards present to workers and ensure they are breathing in clean and safe air.