Welding Fumes Collection

Reducing the Risk of Welding Fume Exposure

One of the most serious causes of air quality problems in manufacturing facilities is the presence of weld fumes. In an interesting industrial twist, this challenge is getting more widespread because manufacturing is on the rise. After many years of off-shoring, manufacturing is seeing “re-shoring”—the return of manufacturing jobs to domestic shores. Manufacturers are finding the advantage of having suppliers close to home, which helps improve lean operations and better control inventory. Also, technological advances have brought costs down. All of these factors have made domestic production cost competitive with cheap overseas labor. All of this new manufacturing means a lot of welding is happening, and employers must be conscious of weld fumes and their effects on workers.

Another factor elevating the dangers of weld fumes is the proliferation of robotic welding operations. These welding stations are growing in popularity due to their well proven efficiency, precision and return on investment. These welding stations maintain a welding arc much longer than manual welders, however, producing large amounts of weld fumes. Mitigation of these fumes is more important than ever.

There are many good reasons for a manufacturer to improve its air quality. First, employers must protect the health of their employees. Second, they must comply with rigorous federal regulations. Third, employers should maintain clean air in order to improve employee recruitment and retention.

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Exposure Risks for Welding Fumes

Weld fumes are a particularly dangerous inhalation risk because of their small particulate sizes. The intense heat created by a welding arc turns welding wire and small amounts of base metal into extremely small particulates, roughly 0.1 to 0.5 microns across. For comparison, a human hair is 100 microns across. The smaller the particulate, the easier it moves through the lungs and into the bloodstream. Some of these metal particulates are smaller than viruses. If these particulates are toxic metals—which they often are—the health implications are very serious.

Metallic particulates such as hexavalent chromium, manganese and beryllium are some of the greatest dangers to welders and other people in metalworking plants. Hexavelent chromium is most commonly produced when welding stainless steel. The chromium present in stainless steel is turned into chromium with a valence of +6 and is often written Cr(VI). This substance is highly toxic and a known carcinogen with a well proven connection to cases of cancer.

Another example of a major health hazard is the presence of manganese in weld fumes. Excessive exposure to this toxic substance can cause a condition known as Manganism. This condition is a neurological disorder whose symptoms resemble Parkinson’s Disease.

Exposure to weld fumes carries general risks, as well. The most common of these are eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as dizziness and nausea. Also documented is suffering from lung damage, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and a condition known as “metal fume fever.” Documented connections with cancer include lung, larynx and urinary tract cancers.

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Regulations for Welding Fumes

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary agency regulating weld fumes and air quality in manufacturing plants. The agency addresses metallic particulates in weld fumes, specifically. For example, OSHA has specific regulations for hexavalent chromium—29 CFR 1910.1026 and 1926.1126.

One of OSHA’s jobs is to set “permissible exposure limits” (PEL’s). These are specific measurements of how much of a substance a worker can be exposed to over an 8-hour shift (using a time-weighted average). Here is a list of a few sample PEL’s:

  • Cadmium: 0.005 mg/m3
  • Hexavalent chromium: 0.005 mg/m3
  • Lead: 0.05 mg/m3
  • Nickel: 1.0 mg/m3
  • Manganese: 5.0 mg/m3

The first step in complying with OSHA regulations is to assess your air quality. This is done through an audit done by an industrial hygienist, preferably by one certified by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. These professionals set up monitors throughout a facility to measure air quality. Some of these monitors are placed on employees’ uniforms, often on the collar, in order to test air in the breathing zone. Data are collected over an eight-hour period, after which, the monitors’ filters are sealed and sent away for study. Analysis of the filters reveals the particulates present in the facility and can be broken down by location on the shop floor. More importantly, specific particulates can be identified, letting the employer know what regulated substances are traveling through the facility and at what exposure levels.

Complying with OSHA regulations is important for any business. Citations for violations can carry significant fines, even reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Violations can cause other legal liabilities, as well, as well as cause reputational harm. Most importantly, however, complying with regulations is a good way to ensure that an employer is protecting the health of its employees.

Solutions for Welding Fumes

RoboVent has a well honed expertise in mitigating weld fumes. For over 25 years, RoboVent has designed and implemented air filtration solutions to protect workers and ensure manufacturers are complying with regulations. Systems like the Fusion Series feature low operating costs, superior fire safety and easy maintenance. If a facility has many welding stations, the Fusion collectors can be arranged in a Grid configuration.

RoboVent offers solutions for robotic welding stations, as well. For example, the Streamline Hood is designed to enclose these welding cells in order to contain and efficiently filter fumes. Recent advances have made the hood slimmer and more efficient, taking up less space while delivering major benefits. As with previous models, the hood can accommodate single or multiple robotic systems in a variety of configurations. Once contained, fumes are sent through high-efficiency Endurex filters, removing airborne contaminants and returning cleaner air to the plant. Built-in spark arrestance is incorporated for an exceptional degree of fire suppression.

Whatever welding operation you have, RoboVent has a solution for you. If your needs are simple and straightforward, we have many options ready to install. If your situation is more complex, RoboVent’s VentMapping process identifies the problem, models your facility’s air flow and allows our engineers to propose the ideal solution.

Configurations

Traditional Configuration

The traditional configuration maximizes performance with ductwork sized for optimal airflow for your specific applications.

Services

VentMapping® Engineering

VentMapping is a systematic engineering and design service. Our comprehensive approach helps us find the safest, most effective and most efficient way to meet your goals.

RoboVent Maintenance Program, Clean Air and Industrial Air Filtration Solutions

ClientCare Maintenance Program

ClientCare lets you leverage RoboVent's expertise so you can reduce the burden on your maintenance staff and stay focused on your core business.

Collectors

Fusion™ Series

A dust collector on the cutting edge of air filtration. The Fusion Series delivers exceptional performance and cost savings in a powerful, simple package.

Spire™ Series

A flexible, cost-effective alternative to centralized ducted systems, each Spire unit provides filtration for an individual large welding cell or several smaller weld cells. This powerful system can keep up with the heavy demands of robotic welding.

FloorSaver™ Series

Need more floor space? The FloorSaver System is designed to fit above a weld cell on a heavy-duty metal stand thus eliminating dedicated floor space for the ventilation unit.

Products

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters, Dust & Fume Air Filters

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters

RoboVent's premium filter engineered to provide the best filtration protection for your plant and employees. A widened pleat and proprietary filter media help deliver top performance.