In this part guidelines are given on the principal health and safety considerations to ensure safe welding practices and prevent accidents. Health risks associated with fume and gases generated during welding are highlighted.

Pre reading activity

Think and say:

1. Do you think welding is a dangerous/hazardous profession?

2. What type/types of welding do you consider the most/least hazardous? Why?



дыхательные пути

чувствительность; восприимчивость

жар, лихорадка; какое-л. заболевание, основным

симптомом которого является очень высокая


першение (в горле)

стесненное дыхание



конечность (человека или животного) сидероз

воспаление легких, пневмония отек легких


подвергание какому-л. воздействию; выставление,

оставление на солнце, под дождем и т. п.


irritation respiratory tract susceptibility fever

tickling chest tightness flu












What is welding fume/gases?

Welding fume is a mixture of airborne fine particles.

Toxic gases may also be generated during welding and cutting.

Particulate fume More than 90% of the particulate fume arises from vaporisation of the consumable electrode, wire or rod as material is transferred across the arc or flame. The range of welding particles size is shown in relation to the more familiar types of dust and fume. The respirable fraction of particles (especially less than 3^m) are potentially the more harmful as they can penetrate to the innermost parts of the lung.


Gases encountered in welding may be:

— Fuel gases which, on combustion, form carbon dioxide and, if the flame is reducing, carbon monoxide;

— Shielding gases such as argon, helium and carbon dioxide, either alone or in mixtures with oxygen or hydrogen;

— Carbon dioxide and monoxide produced by the action of heat on the welding flux or slag;

— Nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone produced by the action of heat or ultraviolet radiation on the atmosphere surrounding the welding arc;

— Gases from the degradation of solvent vapours or surface contaminants on the metal.

The degree of risk to the welder’s health from fume/gases will depend on composition, concentration, the length of time the welder is exposed, the welder’s susceptibility.

Health hazards from particulate fume The potential hazards from breathing in particulate fume are:


1. Irritation of the respiratory tract. Fine particles can cause dryness of the throat, tickling, coughing and if the concentration is particularly high, tightness of the chest and difficulty in breathing.

2. Metal fume fever. Breathing in metal oxides such as zinc and copper can lead to an acute flu-like illness called ‘metal fume fever’. It most commonly

occurs when welding galvanised steel; symptoms usually begin several hours

after exposure with a thirst, cough, headache, sweat, pain in the limbs and fever. Complete recovery usually occurs within 1 to 2 days of removal from the exposure, without any lasting effects.

3. Longer term effects. The continued inhalation of welding fume over long periods of time can lead to the deposition of iron particles in the lung, giving rise to a benign condition called siderosis. There is evidence that welders have a slightly greater risk of developing lung cancer than the general population. In certain welding situations, there is potential for the fume to contain certain forms of chromium and/or nickel compounds — substances which have been associated with lung cancer in processes other than welding. As yet, no direct link has been clearly established. Nevertheless, as a sensible precaution and to minimise the risk, special attention should be paid to controlling fumes which may contain them.

Additional hazards A number of other specific substances known to be hazardous to health can be found in welding fume such as barium and fluorides which do not originate from the metal. If the metal contains a surface coating, there will also be a potential risk from any toxic substances generated by thermal degradation of the coating.

Health hazards from gases The potential hazards from breathing in gases during welding are:

1. Irritation of the respiratory tract. Ozone can cause delayed irritation of the respiratory tract which may progress to bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. Nitrogen oxides can cause a dry irritating cough and chest tightness. Symptoms usually occur after a delay of 4 to 8 hours. In severe cases, death can occur from pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) or pneumonia.

2. Asphyxiation. There may be a risk of asphyxiation due to replacement of air with gases produced when welding in a workshop or area with inadequate ventilation. Special precautions are needed when welding in confined spaces where there is the risk of the build up of inert shielding gases. Carbon monoxide, formed as a result of incomplete combustion of fuel gases, can also cause asphyxiation by replacing the oxygen in the blood.

Establishing safe levels of fume in the workplace The COSHH Regulations* require that exposure is controlled below specific limits. The limits, known as occupational exposure limits, are detailed in EH 40 which is revised periodically. The majority of limits listed are for single substances. Only a few relate to substances which are complex

mixtures; welding fume is one of these. It has an occupational exposure limit but account must also be taken of the exposure limits of the individual constituents. So, in considering what would be safe exposure levels to welding fume, not only should exposure be controlled to within the welding fume limit but also the individual components must be controlled to within their own limits. The assessment of exposure to fume from welding processes is covered in EH 54.

Substances may have a maximum exposure limit (MEL) or an occupation exposure standard (OES).

A MEL is the maximum concentration of an airborne substance to which people may be exposed under any circumstances. Exposure must be reduced as far as is reasonably practicable and at least below any MEL.

An OES is the concentration of an airborne substance, for which (according to current information) there is no evidence that it is likely to cause harm to a person’s health, even if they are exposed day after day. Control is thought to be adequate if exposure is reduced to or below the standard.

The OESs and the MELs of some of the substances found in welding fume are listed in Table below; the absence of other substances from this list does not indicate that they are safe.

Table. Occupational Exposure Limits

8hr TWA

15 min


Substances Assigned a Maximum Exposure Limit



mg/m 3

Cadmium oxide fume (as Cd)


mg/m 3

Chromium VI compounds (as Cr)

0.05 mg/m




0.1 mg/m

Nickel (insoluble compounds)

0.5 mg/m

Substances Assigned an Occupational Exposure Standard

Welding fume

5 mg/m 3

Fluoride (as F)

2.5 mg/m 3

Iron oxide, fume (as Fe)

5 mg/m 3


10 mg/m

Zinc oxide, fume

5 mg/m 3


10 mg/m

Manganese, fume (as Mn)

0.5 mg/m


0.2 ppm

Nitric Oxide

1 ppm

Nitrogen dioxide

1 ppm

Chromium III compounds (as Cr)


0.5 mg/m

Barium compounds, soluble (as Ba)

0.5 mg/m

Carbon monoxide

50 ppm

300 ppm

Copper fume

0.2 mg/m 3

If the fume contains only substances such as iron or aluminium which are of low toxicity, an 8 hour (TWA) OES of 5mg/m3 applies; this figure is the average concentration of particulate fume that should not be exceeded in an 8 hour day.

* Control of Substances Hazadous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSSH) Regulations 2002 require employers to monitor the safe use of chemicals and hazardous substances at work. It requires them to: control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health both now and any future cumulative effects they may have, protect both employees and others who might be exposed, compile records of employees using these materials, supply employees with suitable personal protective equipment.

After reading activity

Think of Russian equivalents for the following word combinations from the text:

Innermost parts of the lung, fuel gas, fine particles, respirable fraction of particles, carbon dioxide, ultraviolet radiation, galvanised steel, lasting effects, welding situations, lung cancer, sensible precaution, surface coating, general population, inadequate ventilation, risk of the build up of inert

shielding gases, incomplete combustion, occupational exposure limit, to cause harm to a person’s health.


True or false?

1. The smaller the particles the more harmful the fume is.

2. The risk to the welder’s health from fume or gases depends on the welding arc.

3. Welders have lung cancer more often than the general population.

4. Asphyxiation may happen due to inadequate ventilation.

5. Metal fume fever is an incurable illness.

Fill in the gaps in the following sentences or complete them:

1. Argon is a… gas.

2. Particulate fume is very… for man’s health.

3. When exposed to particulate fume of high concentration for a long time, a welder may. .

4. Welding galvanised steel may cause. .

5. Asphyxiation may happen due to. .

6. To minimise the risk, special attention should be paid to controlling fumes which may contain chromium or. compounds.

7. In case of metal fume fever, …. recovery occurs soon after removal of the welder from the exposure.

8. … is a disease caused by fluid on the lungs.

9. MEL means maximum… limit..

10. OES is… exposure standard.

11. Gases encountered in welding are … .

Answer the following questions:

1. What is the difference between welding fume and welding gas?

2. What does the major part of the particulate fume arise from?

3. What does the degree of risk to the welder’s health from fume or gases depend on?

4. Under what condition is control over the exposure of welders to hazardous fumes or gases considered adequate?

5. Do the COSHH Regulations state only single substances?

оголенный участок


bare spot wire feeder










механизм подачи (электродной или присадочной) проволоки

1) заземление, замыкание на землю 2) соединение на корпус

переключатель мощности

а) пробой (изоляции) б) излом, разрушение, разрыв замкнутый объём, замкнутое пространство

вытяжной шкаф; вытяжной колпак