If you are looking for advice about welding fumes and the suitable PPE to wear it can be difficult to offer advice for every time someone welds something. The advice that you will find below will help you understand which steps you should take so the work environment is safe for your employees.
Do you need to ensure your workers are using a filtering face mask and that they have additional ventilation along with fume extraction? If you offer any or all of these options it’s vital that you ensure they are used correctly.
- When local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is used correctly the quality of the welds are not affected. You may need to provide all of your welders with the correct type of respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
- If your welders are undertaking short jobs FFP3 masks offer a good amount of protection and they tend to be quite cheap. Please note that you will have to purchase different sized dust masks as the same mask will not fit everyone.
- Powered filtering welding visors can be used when your welders are working for more than 2 hours. Additionally, they can also be used when it’s not viable to use extraction.
Eye and Face Protection
Your team should wear a helmet that comes with a filter lens and a cover plate. Hand shields need to protect the neck and face, forehead and ears. Approved safety glasses that come with side shields or goggles should be worn under the helmet.
Safety shields or goggles should provide protection from slag chips, flying metal and other hazards.
Head and Ear Protection
A fire-resistant welder’s cap or another form of head covering needs to be worn by your workers. This will protect their head and hair from radiation, splatter, flying sparks and burns.
When working over head or out of position ear muffs or plugs should be provided. If there is loud noise then approved muffs or ear plugs should be provided.
Clothes that are oil-free and that allow freedom of movement should be worn. Long sleeved shirts and buttoned cuffs will help to protect the arms and neck from radiation.
Steel toe, leather, high-topped boots that are in good condition need to be worn. If your welders are working in slag or heavy spark areas leather spats should be strapped around their legs and the tops of boots to prevent burns and injury.
Welding gloves that are dry and free from holes should be provided. The gloves should be flame-resistant and provide general hand protection.
One of the first steps you need to take is to determine if the job can be altered so that there is less welding, cutting and gouging involved. Excessive currents and long-duty cycles can produce a lot more fumes along with affecting the quality of the weld. Are your team using the optimum settings? You should also determine if you can use a welding technique that creates fewer fumes. Can you use TIG (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) instead as it produces a smaller amount of fumes?
Has your shielding gas been optimised? Doing so could result in the lowest emission of fumes. You should also bear in mind that the best gas for the work that your welders do may not be the cheapest. If you’re worried about the cost please note that the cost of the gases can be offset by the savings you have in terms of labour costs thanks to an increased speed in production.
Removing Surface Platings
Check to see if you’re able to remove surface platings, paint, dirt and oil. These substances typically increase the fumes and could on occasion may them toxic. Please note that hot work on chromate or lead paints and cadmium plating is very hazardous.
Changing The Environment
Can you change the environment so the welder does not have to breathe in the fume cloud?
- Give them more space to work?
- Provide turntables and other pieces of equipment so the workpiece can be manipulated?
- Plan the welding sequence differently?
If your welders can work with their head out of the rising fumes they will breathe less in. Fewer fumes equals a lot less risk.
Fume Control System
It’s crucial that you ensure the fume control systems are all working correctly. You need to:
- Carry out maintenance on your non-disposable RPE and your fume-extraction equipment.
- Check that you have no common faults such as faulty valves, blocked filters, or crushed or split ductwork.
- Ensure that your fume extraction systems are examined thoroughly by a competent individual at least every 12 to 14 months. Please note this is a legal requirement.
You need to check that any non-disposable welding visors or filtering masks are in good condition. While there is no specific time period set for these checks you should set a schedule.
Take into account the recommendations set by the manufacturers, where the respirator is used and how much they are used. Checks every 4 weeks is normal practice. However, respirators used a lot less often need to be checked every 3 months.