This CPWR Hazard Alert reviews the exposures created by welding, cutting and burning and the health effects they cause. It also recommends control measures and warns about the increased risks of welding in a confined space.
Welding Fumes and Gases
Am I in danger?
If you are doing “hot work” on metal surfaces ...
and you aren’t using ventilation or an appropriate respirator, then the answer is YES.
A respirator protects this welder.
Before you start ...
1. Remove all coatings
Some paints, laquers and solvents on metal surfaces can generate toxic fumes and gases when welding, cutting or burning. Make sure all dangerous materials have been removed before you start work.
The worker is removing lead paint from the metal surface using a needle gun with a vacuum attachment.
2. Use ventilation
Effective ventilation captures fumes and gases at the source. If used correctly, an exhaust system removes fumes before they reach you. These systems are easiest to use indoors. But if wind shielding can be set up, they may be used outdoors. Don’t assume outdoor air movement is enough. Overexposures have occurred outdoors on windy days.
3. Beware of confined spaces
Before you weld or cut in a confined space, your employer must provide a ventilation system and should test the air quality so you have enough oxygen and low toxic gases or vapors. Caution: shielding gases displace oxygen. While in a confined space, you must have adequate breathable air.
OSHA requires it - and so do your lungs.
What you should know about welding fumes and gases.*
|When you are …||your work creates:||… and your health problem could be …**|
|MIG welding using carbon dioxide (CO2) shielding gas||Carbon monoxide (CO)||Deadly: CO gas reaches poisonous concentrations; CO2 gas displaces air to cause suffocation|
|MIG and TIG Welding||Ozone and nitrogen oxides||Irritating: eyes, ears, nose, throat and lungs affected; can damage lungs|
|Welding through or near solvents with chlorine||Phosgene||Deadly: fluid can fill lungs hours after exposure|
|Welding on steel||Manganese||Serious: long-term nerve damage like Parkinson’s disease|
|Hot work on galvanized steel or paint with zinc||“Metal-fume fever”||Non-fatal: flu-like symptoms that pass|
|Welding stainless steel||Nickel and chromium||Serious: asthma and sometimes lung cancer|
|Cutting or welding metal with paint or coatings||Lead, cadmium, and other toxins||Serious: nerve damage, reproductive damage, kidney disease and cancer|
|Welding using shielding gases like argon||Hazards in confined space||Serious to Deadly: reduced oxygen, even suffocation from lack of fresh air|
* There are more hazards. This list shows the most commom ones.
** The amount of exposure determines whether your health will be affected and how severely. Go to www.elcosh.org to explore.
Find out more about construction hazards.
Get more of these Hazard Alert cards – and cards on other topics.
If you think you are in danger: Contact your supervisor. Contact your union. Call OSHA 1-800-321-OSHA