Procuring Industrial Equipment and Supplies

Welding fumes: Safety steps your contractor should take during the welding process

During any welding process, the base metal is melted and joined together with another material via a weld pool. However, the base metal needs to be heated until it melts. This molten state will result in the emission of fumes, which can potentially affect human health.

The fumes may contain chemicals such as iron oxide, cadmium oxide and fluorides of many different types. For these reasons, your welding contractor should take steps towards protecting their staff and surrounding environment from harmful exposure.

You may be wondering why you should be concerned about the safety practices of a third-party contractor. However, any risk or malpractices that may occur from your welding partner may easily affect you either directly or indirectly. For example, lawsuits filed against the welder (by its workers) may result in higher costs for your products. Furthermore, you may suffer a damaged reputation from being associated with a contractor who doesn't take workplace safety seriously.

Why are welding fumes harmful?

Metals contain a combination of materials that react differently under high temperatures. When a specific type of metal is heated to its boiling point, it will release fumes that can cause negative health effects when inhaled.

Take the example of steel. When steel components are being welded, they will produce iron, nickel or cobalt oxides. These heavy metals affect the respiratory tract when inhaled, and can eventually irritate one's lungs.

Furthermore, welding metals that have been coated with a specific material may result in a higher concentration of fumes. For example, painted surfaces may release lead during the welding process, while galvanised steel may release a combination of oxides and fluorides.

The health risks associated with welding fumes are also extensive. For example, such fumes can cause the following bodily complications:

•    Nose and throat irritation

•    Stomach ulcers

•    Lung and tract cancer

•    Muscle rigidity

•    Kidney damages 

Safety steps your welding contractor should take

When selecting a contractor to work with, you should inquire about them having important safety steps in place. First off, all workers should wear ventilation masks when working directly with welding products. The working area should also be well ventilated, with a system in place to channel away harmful fumes.

In the case of poor ventilation, consider choosing a contractor who carries out their welding outdoors. Outdoor welding (in controlled portions) allows for airflow and lower exposure to fumes.

The safety practices of your upstream contractors will reflect directly on your end products. Therefore, keep the risk of weld fumes in mind when choosing a welding partner.