Controlling Hazardous Gases and Fumes During Welding

March 18, 2020 12:10 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Fumes from welding generally feature a mixture of metallic oxides, fluorides and silicates. They are created when the metal being welded gets heated past its boiling point. At that point, vapors from the metal condense and form some very fine particles. Fumes from welding in Umatilla County, OR will typically contain particles both from the material being welded as well as from the electrode itself.

The composition of the welding fumes will vary depending on the type of material being welded. Obviously, different metals have different compositions, so the particles that will form during that boiling process will vary. Fumes from mild steel, for example, will mostly contain iron but will also have small amounts of additive metals like nickel, copper, cobalt, chromium or titanium. Stainless steels, meanwhile, will have significantly larger amounts of nickel or chromium in the fumes, and less iron. Finally, nickel alloys will have very little iron but, as you might suspect, significantly more nickel.

If there are coatings on the metal being welded, it could change the composition of the welding fumes. In fact, some ingredients in the coatings used on the part being welded could produce toxic effects. This is common with cadmium plating, for example, or zinc coatings used on galvanized steel, as well as various plastic coatings, lead oxide primer paints and metalworking fluids, oils or rust inhibitors.

To avoid some of the potential for toxicity, you can attempt to remove the coatings before welding. The processes you use to do this will depend on the specific type of coating you’re working with, but you’ll likely need to use various stripping products to accomplish it. Never grind coatings, as the dust produced from the grinding process could be toxic.

Preventing exposure to welding gases

There are some steps you can take during the welding process to prevent exposure to the resulting gases. Here are a few tips:

  • Never weld on surfaces that are still wet from the use of a degreasing solvent. This could quickly become a safety hazard and only produce more welding gases and vapors.
  • Never weld near degreasing baths, for the same reason.
  • Cover all degreaser baths or containers in your area to help minimize the hazards of welding gases.
  • When possible, use substitute materials like high flash point solvents or water-based cleaners. This will prevent the formation of many of the harmful vapors and gases associated with the welding process.
  • Always make sure you’re welding in a well-ventilated area to quickly remove fumes and gases from the breathing zone. This could mean having a ventilation system in place, or simply having a good cross-flow of fresh air coming into the working space. This also prevents the displacement or enrichment of oxygen and helps to prevent a buildup of flammable atmospheres.
  • Always wear protective respiratory equipment, including masks and rebreathers. Just keep in mind that the use of these devices is not a replacement for ventilation.

For more information about some of the steps you can take to cut down the negative effects of hazardous gases from welding in Umatilla County, OR, contact NW Metal Fabricators Inc. today.

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