Employees’ exposure to hazardous welding fumes has been evaluated in this project for a fabricator of heavy duty commercial vehicles. The vehicles were mainly constructed from aluminium and mild steel sections joined using Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) and Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG) techniques.
We have carried out a comprehensive welding fumes exposure assessment in accordance with HSE guidance and validated sample collection methods. We were able to successfully demonstrate that the contaminant control in this factory was addressed adequately.
The TIG welding process is somewhat specific in the nature of the contaminants produced. As the process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld the amount of fumes is very small in comparison to other welding techniques. However due to the absence of the fumes the welding spot is much brighter thus subjecting the operators to strong ultraviolet light. In addition to UV light risk the electric arc produces quantities of ozone and nitric oxides which can react with lung tissue and moisture to create nitric acid and ozone burn. Ozone and nitric oxide levels are usually moderate, but exposure duration, repeated exposure, and the quality and quantity of fume extraction, and air change in the room must be monitored. Welders who do not work safely can contract emphysema and oedema of the lungs, which can lead to health complications.