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Protecting welding workers from hazardous fumes

There are two types of welding processes. While pressure welding uses pressure and heat, fusion welding uses heat from thermite, electric arc and gas. The hazardous fumes that these processes generate can cause health issues, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides several tips for workers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. to protect themselves from exposure.

The hazardous fumes that welding processes produce contain a range of metals such as arsenic, aluminum, manganese, lead and beryllium. They also contain carbon dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and argon gases. OSHA warns that these elements can cause serious health issues for workers who inhale them. With long-term exposure, workers could suffer urinary tract, lung and larynx cancers. They may also suffer kidney or nervous system damage.

Welders can prevent exposure by first understanding the hazards they face and never welding in confined areas without ventilation. Since working in large open spaces does not always mean that they are well ventilated, using an exhaust ventilation that points away from workers is helpful. They can also protect themselves by regularly cleaning work surfaces to remove coatings that may cause toxic levels of exposure and by working upwind of the fumes. When work practices and ventilation are not enough to reduce the fumes to safe exposure levels, welders can wear respiratory equipment.

People who incur workplace injuries or illnesses during the course of their employment may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. This legislation requires employers to provide benefits to almost all workers, including those who are part-time and seasonal. Employees whose claims have been denied may submit petitions to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation on their own or the with the help of attorneys.

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