Welding on Hazardous Metals-September 2009

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

September 2009

IN THIS ISSUE: Welding on Hazardous Metals

Exposure to welding fumes poses a number of health risks to employees. Chronic exposure can result in respiratory effects including coughing, wheezing, and decreased pulmonary function.  Acute exposure can result in eye, nose, and throat irritation, fever, chills, headache, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle pain, and a metallic taste.  Some welding fumes are carcinogenic or affect specific organs.

“Since 2006, OSHA has become more concerned about employee exposure to hazardous metals,” explains Gary Ticker, CIH, CSP.  “This is especially true of welders who encounter the dangerous fumes on an ongoing basis.”

OSHA has stringent standards in effect for hexavalent chromium, lead, cadmium, inorganic arsenic as well as oxides of metals such as iron and aluminum.  New standards are in consideration for beryllium, and other metals of concern include copper, zinc, and nickel.  When evaluating employee exposure to these chemicals, consider two key factors: the type of welding and its location.
• Type of Welding: Plasma arc cutting and flux-cored arc welding generally create the most fume, while TIG welding, brazing and soldering, and oxygen-acetylene cutting create the least. 
• Location of Welding: Welding outside or in an open area reduces fume. Welding inside a tank or other confined space generates a high concentration of welding fumes unless mechanical ventilation is provided.

If testing determines that welders are overexposed, consider these changes: 
1. Use a less hazardous metal or different type of welding process.
2. Weld for a shorter time or divide the job between two or more employees.
3. Install fixed or portable mechanical ventilation. 

“Employers must consider their welding operations,” explains Ticker.  “Failure to do so can do harm to both the employee and the company.”  

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com.

OccuSafe Environmental and Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Environmental and Safety Services, Inc.   Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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