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Ventilation key to protecting workers from welding fumes

Published on Jul 6, 2016 at 5:55 pm in General Blogs.

Welders in Maryland workplaces are usually extremely careful as they know that a stray spark could easily start a fire, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges them to also bear in mind that the fumes created by pressure or fusion welding can also be extremely dangerous. Toxic substances found in welding fumes include traces of dangerous metals like beryllium, lead and arsenic, noxious gases such as hydrogen fluoride and asphyxiants like argon.

Installing powerful exhaust systems is the best way that employers can protect their workers from toxic welding fumes, but breathing equipment may be issued when ventilation is not possible or welding is done in confined spaces. OSHA also recommends that employers consult their training materials to ensure that the dangers of welding fumes are addressed. Regularly removing layers of grime that could produce toxic smoke is also recommended by the federal safety agency.

Workers who have been exposed to toxic welding fumes for lengthy periods have been known to develop cancer of the larynx, urinary tract and lung, and even brief exposure can irritate throats, noses and eyes and cause dizziness and nausea. Welding fumes have also been linked with kidney and nervous system damage. Fumes that contain large amounts of asphyxiant gases like argon, nitrogen and helium can also pose a suffocation risk to welders working in confined spaces.

Workers’ compensation claims related to toxic environments can sometimes be far more contentious than those filed in connection with a workplace accident. Toxic fumes or substances that cause one worker to become ill will likely affect many others, and employers fearing a flood of workers’ compensation claims may argue that a worker’s medical condition was caused by lifestyle choices rather than anything encountered on the job. Attorneys reresenting ill claimants may anticipate this line of argument, and they could call upon oncologists or other medical experts to refute such assertions.

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