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  1. #1
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    Default Metal working safety

    I've been a metal fabricator for 7 years since I was 16. I have always been concerned about breathing in metal dust and fumes created by the grinding, cutting and welding that I do for a living. I went to school for welding, but they never instructed on respiratory safety. I run my own fabrication business now and therefore have no company regulations or coworkers to ask for advice on safety.

    I'm looking for advice from others who work in metal fabricaton.

    I know you can get lung siderosis from breathing in iron dust and am trying to understand the amount of time it takes to be at risk. Is this likely to happen over a short term period of 10 years or long term 40 years of working? Can my doctor tell if I have iron building up in my lungs?

    I switched to using a TCT chop saw which produces metal chips instead of the regular abrasive chop saws which make a lot of fine metal dust powder. The metal chips of the tct saw are too large to be breathed in, but I was wondering if it still makes any microscopic dust that will get in my lungs? The manufacturer does not require a dust mask to be worn, so am I safe to assume this saw will not contribute to lung siderosis?

    Silicosis occurs from breathing in silica dust such as from jack hammering concrete. Well I use zirconia flap wheels on my grinders which I think the zirconia grit is a type of silica. I go through 20 flap wheels a month and would have to think some of the zirconia would be getting into my lungs as the flap wheels are used up. Is this really a potential hazard or am I just over thinking the small amount of zirconia coming off the flap wheels?

    Respirators are not practical in my shop and I do not wear them for welding, grinding or cutting. It is too hot, they are too bulky and interfere with the use of saftey glasses and face shields.

    I would just like to know the risks and if there are increased chances of health problems for those who have been welding for 40 years.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    After some more research it appears lung siderosis(welders lung) is a benign condition that only shows up as shadows in xrays, so I'm not too worried about it.

    Still dont know about breathing in the zirconia flap wheel dust.

    As far as welding fumes, I have no exhaust in the shop other than a 42" fan in front of the roll up door pointing outside. It's approximately 50 ft from my welding table that is in the middle of the shop. What do you think about my ventilation? I plan on eventually installing a wall mounted exhaust fan and building a shroud over the welding table connected to the exhaust fan with duct work as a sort of fume extractor.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    From the pics of welding fume extractors I've seen, your fan 50' away is not doing you much. A snorkel mounted on an arm directly over the welding puddle will do much better for your health.

    The fan would be better used behind you, blowing the grinding dust away from you & the work.

  4. #4
    Silver Member Rayster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    Down draft tables for grinding & cutting can be made pretty inexpensively, compared to buying them.
    No, I'm not politically correct

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    Evidently OSHA or the local fire Department has paid you a visit.
    Anytime you are vaporizing metal you are going to breath in particles. This may be welding, grinding, sanding. You should have a ventilation system that PULLs air away from the work area. Having air blowing by you may be just recirculating vapors on occasion. There are combined safety suit or hoods that have cooling and positive air flow to the facemask.
    A Doctor can detect metals in the body and lung Xrays that shows a shadow is a problem.
    Last edited by powerpace; 10-24-2013 at 12:12 AM.
    "Anything can happen to anyone at anytime"

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    There was a guy I use to know who works as a welder at a manufacturer of asphalt road building equipment. I once asked him about the kind of ventilation and fume extraction methods they use in their factory. He said there is none and it gets very hot and smoke fills the air.

    I have my expanded sheet metal sheared by a place here and when I walk through their shop I'll look around at the workers who are grinding. I have never seen anybody wearing a dust mask. Even during 2 years of welding school we'd be grinding dozens of plates a day and nobody was told to wear a mask.

    I'm interested in hearing about other's experiences working as a welder at fabrication companies. What safety protocols were required? I know stainless and other metals will produce real bad fumes, but I'm just talking about mild steel.

    What do you do for fume extraction when you are building large assemblies that dont fit on a welding table such as a race car chassis or a trailer and you are jumping around from end to end welding hundreds of joints together? I know they have high dollar portable fume extractors, but who is going to keep repositioning the thing everytime you move from one end to the next?
    Last edited by OutbackL130; 10-24-2013 at 12:36 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    Just got through googling scary stuff about nasty welding fumes. I hope I've learned this lesson in time before any damage was done. Studies have shown manganese fumes from welding can cause parkinsons disease.


    How can a welder determine if there is adequate ventilation?

  8. #8
    Super Member Gary Fowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    I worked in the construction trade for 45 years. We never used ventilators when in an open shop or when outside welding, just used windbreaks to avoid porosity in welds. Huge suction fans were used up in the roof area to remove the smoke in a closed shop which was rare as mostly shops were open on all sides with only a roof to keep off the rain. The only time the vent hoods were used is in a welder training facility where the area is totally enclosed and then each booth had a hood above the test booth to extract the smoke and fumes. Any grinding or burning of galvanized is never recommended and if needed must be done outside and upwind from the activity. Zinc overdose can make you feel really bad for a couple of days, but no permanent disability that I am aware of.
    The company I worked for most of those years did a study with welders who welded on stainless steels by attaching a vacuum pump that withdrew an air sample from inside the hood and determined that there was an insignificant amount of chromium vapors from the welding to be a health hazard. Plasma cutting of stainless might require a suitable filtering mask since it produced a lot more fumes. We didn't use plasma cutters much in the last 25 years as most large diameter pipe fabrication was done by others and small stuff was cut with abrasive wheels which required particle mask and face shields only. We were never sited by OSHA for any violation of welder safety or fined for any other safety violation. Sure there was some non-compliance issues from failure of employees to follow our safety procedures occasionally as is always the case when OSHA comes. They feel that they have to find something or they are not doing a proper inspection.

    Grinding/brushing/ even sweeping in dust producing areas of very rusty steel or activities that produce dust required a simple dust mask available at most welding supply or safety supply places. Sand hasn't been allowed in "sand blasting" to clean metal for 30 years or so due to possibility of silicosis of not only the blaster but nearby workers. A product like black beauty or other non-silicon material is used for that activity.
    I did a lot of carbon steel, stainless steel, chromium alloys, titanium, zirconium, Hastelloy, etc. early in my career as a welder (prior to getting into supervision and management) and never had to use any safety gear for breathing. NO lung problems to date. That isn't to say that new regulations are not now more strict and might require these filters in todays market. Remember though that if you are using a mask, it has to be the right type for what you are using it for or you may as well not have one on.

    For your production using only carbon steel, good eye protection is all you really need when cutting, grinding or welding on common steel materials. If welding in an enclosed building with only one open door, a ceiling or roof ventilation system would improve the air quality. I know a stationary welding table vent hood is not going to help you in a large fabrication area where you move around a lot and the fan sucking out the fumes is only marginal if you don't have some cross ventilation. You would be better off with an attic fan exhausting out while having some windows or roll up door slightly open for cross venting. This is likely your best and cheapest solution as long as you aren't venting the smoke and fumes onto a neighbor, you wont need high $$$ particulate filters and total shop fume evacuation.
    2010 LS P-7010C 20F/20R gear tractor & FEL, 2009 Kubota B 26 TLB, RTV 900 Kubota,17 foot Lund boat with 70HP motor, 2012-20 ft 12k GVW trailer, 2011- 52" Craftsman ZTR mower, 3 weed whackers, pressure washer, leaf blowers, 7 foot bush hog, 8 foot landscape rake , 8 foot 3 PH disc, 2 row cultivator, 350 amp CC AC/DC welding machine and all the tools needed to keep them all repaired and running.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    i've used some air devices called 'air horns' in the past. they are used as air movers for both suction and
    blowing depending on which way you point them. could be an inexpensive alternative for keeping the smoke moving away.

    Pneumatic Air Movers - Grainger Industrial Supply
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Metal working safety

    Thanks for the replies! My biggest fear is from the claims that welding mild steel causes manganism or parkinson's disease. How much truth is there to this or is it mostly just propaganda brought on my lawyers trying to make money? I've searched the internet hard to find actual stories of welder's with manganism disease, but there are none posted which is fishy because welding is such a common trade.

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