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The invisible risks involved in welding

The invisible risks involved in welding

  • Published on: 20.02.2017

Working as a welder involves numerous health risks. It is therefore important to be aware of these risks when welding and to avoid them preventively.

Early health care and occupational safety pay off

Many older people regret not having taken care of their health in earlier years. In particular, workers in technical professions show damage to their health in old age that could have been avoided according to the current state of occupational health and safety. What is still ignored at a young age often has a severe impact on health in old age.

Welding shows that the fumes that have been inhaled for years can lead to serious health problems. The noises to which the ears were exposed day in and day out without protection can also severely impair hearing in old age. Workpieces and work materials that are not too heavy to carry without outside help can cause shoulder diseases in old age.

Much manual welding work is carried out in a kneeling position. Over the decades this can lead to irreparable damage to the knee joints. Many of the seemingly insignificant activities in the welder's profession can lead to illness in later years of life. The good news, however, is that a few simple everyday changes can prevent many of these ailments.

Avoid gases and vapors when welding

Sometimes the toxic gases and vapors make themselves felt right at work. For example, if zinc vapors come into contact with galvanized metal and are inhaled, many welders fall ill with what is known as metal smoke fever. The symptoms are night sweats, chills, and stomach pain. Other vapors cause shortness of breath or headache.

The greatest health risk, however, comes from all the gases and vapors that are inhaled in the course of working life without immediate illness. Permanently installed air measurements show compliance with the health limits, but these cannot be regarded as an absolutely safe exposure level.

Health damage caused by manual welding goes unnoticed for a long time

Welding smoke is a combination of the vapors from different metals. For example, mild steel mainly contains iron, but also manganese, which can be harmful to health. In addition to iron, stainless steel also contains nickel and chromium. Each connection can have different health effects on the welder.

The human nose filters the air we breathe and prevents a lot of smoke, vapors and grinding dust. However, many smoke particles are so small that they can travel freely through the nose, sinus cavity, and throat to the lungs. Most of the workers do not notice any irritation. Only after many years of inhaling welding fumes do the first health impairments appear. These can initially be noticeable when climbing stairs, but they can be much more advanced.

Preventive measures for health in welding

  • Keep your face out of the sweat fumes. If there is natural ventilation, let the fumes blow away from your face. In poorly ventilated rooms, a fan can disperse the smoke and fumes.
  • Only weld clean metal. Before manual welding, remove the coatings and varnish in the welding area.
  • Use the existing extraction systems. Position the hood near the weld and set up your workplace before starting work.
  • Wear hearing protection. Even if the noises are not perceived as annoyingly loud, they are loud enough to cause nerve cell damage. In the course of a professional life, the small damages add up.
  • Take care of your joints and use the help of mechanical lifting aids. At a young age, lifting heavy parts does not bother the body, but even these constant loads can damage the body in the long term.