Welding and grinding inevitably results in the emission of various harmful chemicals and toxins, and an essential part of COSHH compliance is therefore the implementation of comprehensive and efficient extraction systems.
During welding, various dust and fumes are produced – and these can be so dangerous that numerous safety limits are imposed. With the health of operators potentially at risk, it’s imperative that best practices are adhered to and guidelines are followed.
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What harmful emissions are released as a result of welding?
Welding and grinding releases a range of known carcinogens amongst the dust. Weld fumes are known as ‘sticky contaminants’ as they spread quickly and may be not just inhaled by those in the vicinity but can also damage and contaminate the finished product. Easily inhaled, grinding dust is also pervasive.
Both welding fumes and grinding dust are made up of a mixture of metals (metallic oxides), silicates and fluorides, and the particulates emitted become suspended in the surrounded air. Inhalable dust of this type is known as ‘e-dust’, and if it’s able to travel through humans far enough to reach the air sacs in the lungs (the alveoli), it is known as ‘a-dust’.
Only correctly specified filtration can reduce or remove the risk of particulates entering the body, as it halts or reduces their suspension in the air.
What health impacts can welding fumes and dust have?
It’s been proven that continued or prolonged exposure can have long-term and even potentially fatal health consequences.
This includes COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma, metal fume fever, acute pneumonia, ‘welder’s lung’, asphyxiation, and even the development of respiratory cancers.
These health impacts are perhaps more common than many of us might assume. HSE estimates that breathing in metal fumes at work leads to 40-50 welders each year being hospitalised!
What safety limits are in place to protect against these risks?
In order to introduce safe standards for welding and grinding, there are legally mandated dust limit values that stipulate maximum particulate levels in the air. Limits will vary depending on geography, but the UK has particularly strict dust limit values when compared with other countries.
Inhalable particles are up to 10 micrometres in size and respirable particles up to 2.5 micrometres. Levels of these particle emissions are heavily governed in order to avoid exposure and inhalation. There is no specified WEL for weld fume, however as a known carcinogen exposure must be reduced to a level “As Low As Reasonably Practicable” – ALARP. Any companies carrying out welding work must therefore ensure that effective engineering controls are put in place to control any fumes being created.
Offering the safest possible products to protect people, products and profits; our market leading range of downdraught benches includes heavy-duty FPW type grinding dust extractor benches with multi-stag spark protection and up to H13 HEPA final dust and fume filtration, as well as VertEx cross-draught systems and booths, which provide a fully extracted space for operation.
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