Safety should be the number one priority for any metal fabrication shop. Whether it is laser cutting, welding, metal bending, metal rolling, stamping, the safety of the operators, worker and the machinery is the utmost priority for the manager.
Being one myself, I understand how difficult it is to manage the projects while ensuring the procedure and the operation is risk-free and will be running smoothly. Especially because each machine or process has its own set of safety measure to consider. However, I find ensuring the safety of the welding unit more difficult than others. Not because it’s complicated or a lengthy process. Because people kind of take it for granted.
Welder and even their supervisors are unaware of the fact how hazardous the fumes can be and how to ensure the situation doesn’t get any worse.
Thankfully, there is a three-tiered approach to ensure safety in the workplace and with that, welder and their supervisors can easily prevent any big accidents from happening.
The three tiers
A) Eliminating the hazard, if it is possible
B) Try to reduce or contain exposure to or just render the hazard harmless
C) Equip the employees with necessary protective gears
In stainless steel fabrication welding produced fumes (more than steel fabrication and aluminium fabrication welding fumes) and fumes from other exotic metals can’t be disposed easily. So, a mix of the second and third tiers might be the best methodology.
At the 2nd tier, few specific methods can render these fumes harmless to safeguard the operators or welders.
If the welding operation is happening inside your facility, an exhaust system can evacuate those fumes out of the workplace. In this situation, the plant manager should ensure that the exhaust system is capable of evacuating the unwanted fumes from the place and the toxic fume concentration is maintained below the Lower Threshold Limits.
By using the exhaust system comes the replenishing of the exhausted toxic air, which can be difficult in cold weathers. Also, the unit that is collecting the fume needs to be planted closer to the source of its creation, If the collecting unit is placed far the welding area, the toxic fumes won’t be evacuated efficiently.
But when you are welding outside, the situation is more difficult to handle. In this scenario, you can only rely on the weather to mitigate the toxicity in the air, which depends on the wind flow, temperature, humidity of the air, etc.
The third and last tier is putting the protective gears on. This is the last resort for your employees if the exhaust system in your facility doesn’t work or the weather is not in your favor.
If the toxicity levels are too high or the volumes of the toxic fumes are too much for the exhaust system to handle, your welder should put on masks that have any purification unit in it.
But don’t depend on the gears only. I repeat – this is the last resort. You only need to think about it when you have successfully gone through the first 2 tiers.