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EXPOSURE TO WELDING FUME AND OTHER GASSES
There are many types of welding processes that can cause exposure to harmful gasses and fumes. The visible clouds of fume are generally made up of metal particles and metal oxide. Additionally, harmful gasses such as Nitrous Oxide, Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide are emitted during welding operations . In order to protect workers these gasses and fumes need to be controlled.
WHY IS CONTROLLING FUMES NECESSARY?
Each different type of welding process gives off varying amounts of harmful fumes and gasses. Fumes contain small particles of metal and flux, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Exposure to these fumes can cause many respiratory illnesses or even cancer. Studies by the HSE have concluded that welding fumes may be more harmful that previously thought. Companies must now provide adequate controls for welding operations regardless of duration. Additionally, these controls should remove the hazard at source as overall room extraction does not reduce exposure to the operator.
WORKPLACE EXPOSURE LIMIT
The workplace exposure limit (WEL) for welding fumes varies depending on the type of welding, materials, or the filler rod and flux. For example, the 8 hour exposure limit for iron oxide is 5mg/m3, whilst the limit for chromium III is 0.5mg/m3. Because of the large differences in WELs and combinations of different welding processes, we recommend that exposure tests are carried out to determine your limits. For information regarding the WEL for specific welding operation visit the HSE website.
HOW TO CONTROL EXPOSURE
Workplace hazards should all be taken into consideration when planning on control measures. Protection of the worker should always be the first priority and employees should be included in the planning process. A system that is easy to use and does not impede workflow will be readily adopted by the workforce. We recommend a a combination of a centralised LEV and small portable welding extractors that can cover all aspects of your operations.
An LEV system coupled with easily manoeuvrable extraction hoods offers total flexibility and control for the operator. This allows them to position the hood as they move along the work piece and removing the toxic fumes at source before they can enter breathable space. General or overall extraction of a room is not generally accepted because this does not prevent the fumes reaching the operator. Risk assessments should be carried out in order to identify risks and implement control measures.
HOW TO ASSESS RISKS
When dealing with harmful substances a risk assessment should be completed. We have put together an example on how you can evaluate your processes.
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