Producing heavy equipment like earth movers and cranes presents many different challenges. Among them are the dust and weld fumes created from the vast amounts of metal cutting and welding that are necessary. Whether your metal cutting is oxyfuel, laser, plasma or something else, care must be taken to avoid impacts on workers’ health, as well as on the quality of the work being performed. Likewise, welding stations produce serious fumes and harmful particulates, as well.
Both weld fumes and metal-cutting dusts contain tiny particulates of metals. When these particulates are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs, these metals prove to be toxic. If welders are over-exposed to these substances, they are at risk for many different irritations, illnesses and diseases.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the job of enforcing workplace safety rules and therefore regulates worker exposure to these harmful substances. OSHA has separate standards for many different substances found in fumes and dusts. Some of these substances have extremely serious health effects. For example, excessive exposure to inhalable manganese can lead to a condition called “manganism,” a serious neurological disorder with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease. Exposure to hexavalent chromium, a byproduct of welding stainless steel, has been linked to cancer. It is a manufacturer’s job to limit these exposures. This is accomplished by employing high-quality ventilation systems or dust and fume collectors.
Another recent challenge facing manufacturers is recruiting and retaining skilled welders. If a workplace is full of dust and fumes, workers and job applicants know it is unhealthy. Employers must maintain a pleasant and safe workplace in order to attract the best workers. The job of recruitment is getting more and more difficult—the American Welding Society estimates that manufacturing will see a shortage of 290,000 skilled welders by 2020.