Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Welding Hazards of Galvanized Steel
Welding on galvanized steel can present increased health risk compared to welding on regular steel. Galvanized metal has a protective coating of zinc that provides a barrier between the steel and the environment to protect it from rusting. Galvanization creates an electro-chemical reaction that protects the steel even when the coating is damaged. Whengalvanized steel is welded, the zinc is vaporized into a fume of zinc oxide and adds to the volume of smoke generated by the welding operation. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have both short term and full shift exposure limits to zinc oxide.
Welding and Metal Fume Fever
Unlike other heavy metals such as lead and chromium, zinc is an essential mineral to the body and does not cause the symptoms of hazardous metals. However, in high concentrations, exposure to zinc oxide can cause Metal Fume Fever with symptoms including fever, chills, thirst, headache, and nausea. If removed from exposure, symptoms typically subside within 24 hours. Depending upon the individual, a welder may build up an immunity that hides the full effects. If one takes a break from welding over the weekend, for example, the symptoms will often come back again the next time one welds on galvanized metal. Because of this behavior, metal fume fever is sometimes known as “Monday morning sickness.”
Controlling Exposure When Welding
Welding on galvanized steel and other hazardous metals can damage the health of employees. However, with proper evaluation of welding risks, respiratory protection, ventilation, training, as well as medical monitoring of employees these hazards can be effectively controlled.
- Evaluate Risks.
- Improve Ventilation and Engineering Controls. Welding inside a tank or other confined space is most likely to generate a high concentration of welding fumes, and may require additional engineering controls.
- Train Employees.
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment. If good ventilation is not possible, wear an approved respirator that fits underneath your welding helmet, to protect from fumes.
- Monitor Employee Health.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate andcontrol hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety andhealth. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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