A welding fume extractor is more than a vent fan. Fume extractors pull fumes and particulates from the air into a filtration system. Depending on the unit, the clean filtered air circulates back into the workplace. The filtered contaminants take the form of dust that collects in a bin. Empty the catch bin regularly.
Why Welders Should Use a Fume Extractor
First and foremost, a welding fume extractor protects the health of the welder and anyone working near the welder. Cleaner air in the work environment also protects machinery. All welding methods flux core (FCAW), MIG (GMAW), and stick (SMAW) produce toxins. If a welder opts not to wear a respirator, they need to be protected another way.
The Components of Welding Fumes
The metals present in welding fumes are manganese, aluminium, lead, beryllium, and arsenic. Welding generates gasses.
- Hydrogen fluoride
- Carbon monoxide and dioxide
OSHA has drafted regulations addressing exposure to the carcinogen and byproduct of welding hexavalent chromium.
Health Hazards of Welding
Dizziness, nausea, and irritation of the ears, eyes, nose, and throat are consequences of briefly inhaling welding fumes. Extended inhalation of welding fumes contributes to the development of urinary tract, lung, and larynx cancer. There is a risk of compromising the central nervous system and kidneys. Toxic gasses can overwhelm the oxygen supply in the welding area resulting in suffocation.
Stationary and Portable Fume Extractors
Stationary Fume Extractors Fumes and particulates are collected under a hood and sent through galvanized pipes into a collection bin. There are two types of stationary fume extractors. One type of extractor just filters the air. The second type of stationary extractor recirculates the filtered air back into the work area. Both types of extractors have the same basic components.
Portable Fume Extractors A stationary welding fume extractor is the choice for a sedentary welding station. Taking the welding machine to the job site requires a wheeled portable extractor.
Placing the Extraction Arm
The hood of a fume extractor is attached to an articulated Extraction Arm. Without proper placement of the extraction arm, the fume extractor is useless. The hood needs to be directly over the pieces being welded.
Choose a filter based on the application. Use micro-pleat filters for extracting fumes from soldering and welding or where the air contains a high concentration of particles. Cleaning a micro-pleat filter with compressed air doesn’t require removing the filter from the extractor.
Local Exhaust Ventilation Testing
The Health and Safety Work Act of 1974 mandates Local Exhaust Ventilation Testing every 14 months. The test entails a visual inspection of the fume extraction unit. The next step is technical performance evaluation, like calculating volume flow and challenge testing where the operator(s) demonstrate knowledge of proper fume extraction equipment operation. Lastly, the mechanical functioning of the extractor is tested.