With different methods of welding, materials and coatings, matched with frequencies and durations, it can be hard for business owners, or health and safety managers to know when or how to adequately control fumes produced from the welding process. Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is the primary solution to mitigate welding fume exposure. Welding is a thermal process; so, fumes which include particulates and gases produced from the process are suspended in ambient air.
“There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of welding fumes. Welding fumes can cause cancer of the lung. Positive associations have been observed with cancer of the kidney.”
We Have The Solution...
At Auto Extract Systems Ltd, we have a number of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) solutions to suit the requirements of your business. Auto Extract Systems Ltd are accustomed to helping all kinds of fabrication and engineering businesses provide pollution-free workplaces.
What Do The HSE Recommend?
In February 2019 (after IARC released their report), HSE changed their enforcement expectations for mild steel welding fume that there is, “No known level of safe exposure” and that; “HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable exposure control measures in place.” In this bulletin, HSE advised that welding fumes should be adequately controlled using engineering controls, typically LEV.
In November 2019, HSE released updated COSHH Direct Advice Sheets: Guidance for Managers, specifically, 'WL3: Welding Fume Control' advised good welding fume control practice depending on how frequent, the duration and the type of welding. The guidance states which is the best method of LEV depending on the size of the workpieces, for example, downdraught benches, on-torch extraction and extraction arms.
- Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
- Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
- Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should subsequently provide to control risk from any residual fume, LEV first, then RPE.
- Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test (COSHH testing) where required.
- Make sure any RPE is subject to an official employee RPE programme for correct fitting.
- Welding fumes are carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).
- Ultraviolet radiation from welding is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)
The fume given off by welding and hot cutting processes is a varying mixture of airborne gases and very fine particles, which if inhaled can cause ill health. Gases that may be present in welding and cutting fume are:
- Nitrous Oxide (NOx)
- Nitric Oxide (NO)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO²)
- Carbon Dioxide (CO²)
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Helium (He)
- Ozone (0³) and;
- Shielding Gas e.g. Argon (AR)
What's in Welding Fume?
- Formaldehyde - Formaldehyde can be found in metal coatings and degreasing solvents. This chemical causes damage to the nasopharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the nose), nasal sinuses and there's evidence to suggest it can cause leukaemia.
- Nickel - Nickel compounds are found in stainless steel and also in welding rods and there is evidence to suggest it can cause damage to the lungs, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
- Beryllium - Beryllium and beryllium compounds form from the hardening agent in copper, magnesium, aluminium alloys and electrical contacts and affect the lung.
- Chromium - Chromium VI compounds are found in stainless steel alloy and also in welding rods and are detrimental to the lung, nasal sinuses and nose.
- Arsenic - Arsenic and inorganic compounds are present in all methods of welding and can have an adverse impact on the health of humans’ lungs, skin, urinary, bladder, prostate, kidney and liver.
- Cadmium - Cadmium and cadmium compounds are present on the base metal’s plating and stainless steels which contain cadmium. This element impacts the lung, kidney and prostate.
- Lead - Inorganic lead compounds are present in solder, brass and bronze alloys; welding on lead-coated/containing materials, which affects the stomach.
- Iron Oxides - Iron oxides are given off during the welding process as it's one of the main components of steel, which affects the lungs.
Welding, Molybdenum Trioxide and Indium Tin Oxide: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans (Volume 118).
To find out more about the latest LEV installations we've been working on, check out our Case Studies section.
- Welding and Fabrication
- Railway Manufacturing
- Ship Building
- Bridge Building
- Steel Construction
- Welding Workshops