07 Jun The Hazards in Metal Fabrication
Welding and cutting operations present a variety of hazards, not only to those carrying out the operation but in many instances to others in the vicinity.
In the workshop there are a number of hazards specific to welding or cutting. In addition, there may be other hazards of a more general nature present in the fabrication environment. All potential hazards need to be identified, measured and assessed. Remedial measures must be put in place wherever necessary.
Although Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should not be issued as the primary method of reducing a hazard, it should be issued to all personnel if beneficial. Employers and employees should be made fully aware of the dangers that can arise and take all reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of all. Here are some hazards that you may encounter when working in the metal fabrication industry:
Chromium in Fume
Chromium is an element present in the consumables and parent material of stainless steel, heat-resisting steels, some creep-resisting steels, some high nickel alloys and armour plate. It may also be present in some consumables used for hard-facing.
Chromium is also used as a coating for other materials (such as chrome plating) to give corrosion protection to steel or to give a pleasing aesthetic appearance. Welding or cutting materials containing chromium are likely to give chromium compounds in any particulate fume generated by the process. Whether it presents a significant hazard to health depends on the concentration and the duration of exposure.
Working in an excessively hot environment can cause the body to overheat; this is called ‘heat stress’.
If fluids are not taken to replace those lost by sweating, heat exhaustion can occur. Extreme cases of this condition can be fatal. Precautions should be taken, and work regimes adjusted to ensure that every workers core body temperature is maintained within its required operating range.
Metal Fume Fever
Welding certain materials can give rise to fume containing freshly-formed metal oxide fume. If inhaled in sufficient concentration it can produce a reaction similar to a bout of flu. This is why it is most commonly known as ‘Metal Fume Fever’.
Although it normally lasts no more than a day, it is possible to get an attack of fume fever more than once. There is no evidence to suggest that repeated bouts cause cumulative damage. The metal oxides usually associated with metal fume fever are those of zinc and copper, although others can have the same effects. In welding and cutting, copper alloys, galvanised and some painted components are most likely to cause this problem.