The welding industry is older than most people think (the first recorded weld occurred in 3,500 B.C.!), and over its long years there have been a number of tools and equipment invented to assist it. Among these are tools like purge monitors and pipe alignment clamps, which were designed to aid the welder in doing their job successfully.
But while purge monitors and other purge equipment may help keep gases and unwanted air particles away from the welding zones, they do not help keep the welder safe from toxic welding fumes. That is the job of a good ventilation system. However, sometimes the ventilation system isn’t enough, and that’s where these tips can help:
How To Handle Fumes
One of the best ways that one can handle welding fumes is to implement the OSHA guidelines known as the Hierarchy of Controls. These guidelines include practices such as elimination and substitution, engineering controls, administrative and work practice controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Let’s take a closer look at each of these practices:
Elimination and Substitution
These are designed to prevent potentially harmful exposures by doing something like switching to shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), or to gas metal arc welding (GMAW) with a solid or metal coated wire. You should take the time to look at the process and find the best way to accomplish your goals with less fume generation.
This involves physical changes to the workplace such as isolation (enclosing the welding process), or ventilation. Ventilation is the most common precaution, and there are many ways that it can be done. Natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation, or capturing devices to keep the fumes out of the welder’s breathing zone.
Administrative and Work Practice Controls
These require the welder or the employer to do something themselves, such as re-positioning the head away from the fumes, or moving their body so the air flows back to front. These practices ensure the fumes are pushed away from the welder while they work.
Personal Protection Equipment
Items like NIOSH-approved respirators fall into this category, and each type has a protection factor assigned to them that tells the level of protection that will be given. You should make sure you and your employees inspect these respirators often to ensure they are properly taken care of.
Purge monitors can be a good way to keep unwanted air particles out of your welding zone, but you need to worry about your own health too. Welding is a dangerous job in the wrong circumstances and you should do all you can to avoid that.