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Welding fume safety tips

The definition of welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing fusion. This is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as soldering, which does not melt the base metal. Being a welder is a highly skilled job and as it’s directly linked to the building industry it has seen a welcome growth in the past couple of years, following the massive financial crash in 2009 and subsequent halt of many construction industry related projects.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to bear safety in mind for welders, not only when considering potential explosions and electric shocks but in terms of fumes and breathing safety. Welding and cutting fumes are potentially very hazardous to those operating machinery and there are strict guidelines in place which must be adhered to in order to protect worker’s health.

Fercell’s Senior Technical Ventilation Engineer, Darren Ray explains in this guide why welding fumes should be avoided, how they can be avoided, what HSE regulations need to be adhered to and all the latest types of ventilation system technology that can be installed to efficiently and effectively extract welding and associated fumes.

Why do you need operate a welding fume extraction system?

To put it bluntly, welding fume can kill. Deadly gases that may be present when welding and cutting include nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and shielding gas such as Argon, helium.

What sort of illnesses could I or my staff encounter if we aren’t protected?

Welding creates a mixture of airborne gases and very fine particles, which, when combined and inhaled can cause serious health problems. These illnesses and diseases are all directly linked to working with smoke and fume. COPD was related to approximately 4,000 deaths in the UK in 2014, according to the 2016 HSE report into work-related respiratory disease.

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Occupational asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Cancer of the lung and larynx
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Metal Fume Fever

What legislation should I be aware of?

In order to operate legally, companies need to be aware of regulation 9 of the COSHH legislation. In a nutshell, it means that anyone operating with toxic fumes and gases needs to test their Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems every 14 months. The assessment, carried out by a trained engineer will ensure that workers are protected by properly functioning fume ventilation systems. At Fercell we have engineers that do assessments throughout the country.

We also offer training on systems so that staff know exactly how to operate their units and can identify when there is a problem. This helps keep everyone safer.

Always ensure you receive a Log Book and the paperwork following your LEV test and you get a User Manual when your extraction system has been installed. Fercell have customers that didn’t purchase their ventilation from us and we’re happy to LEV test or service their products. But sometimes they call us out when had they been given a manual they would have been able to quickly answer their own questions.

What fume extraction systems are best for what type of fume applications?

Much research has shown that extracting at source is the most efficient way to minimise the risk of welding-fume related diseases. The welder can safely work over large areas as well as closed off or confined spaces.

There are an array of different systems you can employ. You may need a mobile filter or a static filter. Or perhaps you have the filter but need an arm or a hood. There is so much choice so it is best to be visited by a technical engineer who can evaluate the application type and what would fit the size of your workshop without overcrowding it. Saying that, in brief we can cover what sort of unit would suit the work you are undertaking.

Mobile fume extraction units: for flexible working, when staff are welding across different work stations. At source extraction is always best in order to capture as many of the fumes as possible. Mobile units will be attached to either extraction arms or hoods.

Fercell recommends: The COMPAK extraction arm for a telescope function for effortless positioning and comes in an array of tube diameters and lengths with a variety of attachments.

The Mini Arm comes with a lightweight aluminium hood which can turn 360°.

The PERMA Arm is flexible and easy to install.

Wall mounted extraction units: These can be hooked up to centralised duct systems or via an extraction arm and are designed particularly for intermittent processes generating low-medium gas concentrations, including electrode welding.

Fercell recommends: The ICAP Series offers a low operating cost solution from a high power centrifugal fan.

The GFB Series complete with a pneumatic filter cleaning system, ensuring filtration efficiency up to 99.97% down to 0.5 micron.

Suction benches: These can be connected to a fan set or centralised ducting and can be used for capturing various fumes and dusts.

Fercell recommends: The BSA Series comes with a removable rear suction wall and hinges to provide optimal capture efficiency. The heavy duty removable steel worktop can be modified to match specific working processes.

For further information on fume extraction safety either via welding applications or any other form of manufacturing please call Darren or one of the team on 01622 791414 and we will be happy to talk through the products or systems we think you need and can arrange a site visit to investigate and assist further.

Fume extraction products