Metals / Welding Fumes

Air Testing and Exposure Monitoring of Workers for Metals and Welding Fumes

Workplace Safety and Health Division may issue an Improvement Order to your company for a chemical and biological substance exposure assessment. This is essentially a direction by the Division to measure the potential worker exposures to chemicals and other agents found in your workplace. One common industrial activity that often generates an Improvement Order is welding and exposure to welding fumes. Exposure to high levels of welding fumes have been associated with cancer, lung effects, central nervous system effects and reproductive effects in men.

Metals exposure  from welding and grinding is a common industrial exposure. In particular welding fumes is a very common exposure. A 2 year study of welders’ exposure in Manitoba performed by Doug Wylie, CIH of Winnipeg Air Testing and sponsored by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba found that if workers are not using respiratory protection or local exhaust ventilation, more than half of the MIG welders were overexposed to metals. The metal of greatest concern was manganese. Chronic high exposure to manganese causes a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms include trembling hands, unsteady gait, etc. ACGIH lowered the TLV for manganese to 0.02 mg/m3 in response to new information on neurological symptoms in welders at airborne concentrations below the former TLV of 0.2 mg/m3. As a result of the lowering of the manganese standard, recent testing has shown that many welding exposures are significantly above the new TLV.

Welding Exposure Surveys

Welding exposure surveys are performed by collecting a personal sample in the welders breathing zone. For welders, this should be done using in-mask samplers – a special sampling device intended to collect a sample behind the welding mask. Studies have shown that samples taken behind the mask provide a more accurate measurement of workers exposure. Samples taken outside of the welding mask such as on the shoulder or lapel provide higher results which may result in unnecessary and expensive controls based on flawed testing procedures.

Samples are collected and analyzed for a set of different metals to fully characterize the exposure. This provides a complete description of the metals in the workers breathing zone. The results are compared to provincial exposure guidelines. A report detailing the results and recommendations to reduce worker exposure was prepared for each company. Recommendations for controls are also provided.

Summary of Findings of 2 Year Study on MIG Welders in Manitoba Sponsored by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba and Conducted by Winnipeg Air Testing

welding exposureA two year study on welding exposure performed by Doug Wylie found that half of unprotected workers were exposed to excessive levels of welding fumes. Please contact us for a free copy of the findings of the study as well as information on controlling welding fumes in your workplace.

Winnipeg Air Testing can also perform specialized testing and programs for specific compounds of concern. For example, working with or removing lead paint can pose a potential health hazard both by airborne dust and also by surface contamination. Often the largest source of exposure is the tracking of lead into the lunchroom where it is inadvertently ingested. A proper assessment should measure and provide recommendations for controls for both routes of exposure.

Case Study

A workplace works with a material that contains lead. The material is broken and handles in specific ways. Out of concern regarding the possible health effects of lead, workers were required to wear respiratory protection. The respirators make communication difficult for workers and are uncomfortable to wear. Winnipeg Air Testing performed air testing on the workers to measure their individual exposure to lead. The results showed that the airborne levels of lead were low enough that the workers did not need to wear the respirators. However, lead can also be absorbed by ingestion. The survey performed also included surface testing for lead in the lunchroom. This surface testing revealed levels of concern and simple precautions were recommended to prevent the spread of lead into the lunchroom and thus to better protect worker. The overall result was a safer workplace, less discomfort for workers and reduced costs for personal protective equipment for the company.

For a free quotation please contact us and ask for a free copy of the Manitoba Welding Exposure Study or simply download a copy from out Download page on this website.