AbstractsMedical & Health Science

Exposure to fumes and gases during welding operations

by Robert Allan. Sutherland

Institution: Deakin University
Year: 1998
Keywords: Welding - Safety measures; Welding - Equipment and supplies - Safety measures
Record ID: 1032033
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30023430


The exposure to fumes and gases is one of the hazards associated with welding operations. Apart from research conducted on the mechanism of fume and gas formation and the relationship between fume formation rates and common welding parameters, little is known about the exposure process during welding. This research project aimed to identify the factors that influence exposure, develop an understanding of their role in the exposure process and through this understanding formulate strategies for the effective control of exposure during welding. To address these aims a literature review and an experimental program was conducted The literature review surveyed epidemiological, toxicological and exposure data. The experimental program involved three approaches, the first, an evaluation of the factors that influence exposure by assessing a metal inert gas/mild steel welding process in a workshop setting. The second approach involved the study of exposure in a controlled environment provided by a wind tunnel and simulated welding process. The final approach was to investigate workplace conditions through an assessment of exposure and control strategies in industry. The exposure to fumes and gases during welding is highly variable and frequently in excess of the health based exposure standards. Exposure is influenced by a number of a factors including the welding process, base material, arc time, electrode, arc current, arc voltage, arc length, electrode polarity, shield gas, wire-to-metal-work distance (metal inert gas), metal transfer mode, intensity of the UV radiation (ozone), the frequency of arc ignitions (ozone), thermal buoyancy generated by the arc process, ventilation (natural and mechanical), the welding environment, the position of the welder, the welders stance, helmet type, and helmet position. Exposure occurs as a result of three processes: the formation of contaminants at or around the arc region; their transport from the arc region, as influenced by the entry and thermal expansion of shield gases, the vigorous production of contaminants, thermal air currents produced by the heat of the arc process, and ventilation; and finally the entry of contaminants into the breathing zone of the welder, as influenced by the position of the welder, the welders stance, helmet type, and the helmet position. The control of exposure during welding can be achieved by several means: through the selection of welding parameters that generate low contaminant formation rates; through the limitation of arc time; and by isolating the breathing zone of the welder from the contaminant plume through the use of ventilation, welder position or the welding helmet as a physical barrier. Effective control is achieved by careful examination of the workplace, the selection of the most appropriate control option, and motivation of the workforce.