As manufacturers well know, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues standards to regulate air quality in the workplace. These regulations apply to dust and fume levels, in general, as well as to specific substances found in those dusts and fumes. For example, OSHA regulates workers’ exposure to hexavalent chromium, a metal that can be found in weld fumes. Particulates of this substance are extremely small, due to the high temperatures involved in welding. When inhaled, these tiny particulates can travel deep into the body. Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen and, when inhaled, has been linked to incidences of cancer.
It is impossible to manufacture construction equipment without engaging in serious metal-working processes. No manufacturer is going to avoid dust and weld fumes from these sources. Whether you have only a few manual welding stations or a floor full of robotic welding cells, the airborne contaminants produced will be substantial. These contaminants don’t just threaten workers’ health and regulatory compliance, they also can make employee recruitment and retention more difficult. Due to the upsurge in manufacturing, it is becoming more difficult to attract new, skilled workers. The American Welding Society estimates that manufacturers will see a shortage of 290,000 skilled workers by 2020. Maintaining a pleasant and safe workplace will help to attract and keep the best workers.