Do you need fume extraction or respiratory protective equipment?
This isn’t a grey area, the answer does however depend on several factors. The variation in these factors means that it is often not possible to make general statements such as “yes you do” or “no you don’t”.
The factors you will need to consider are:
- What process you use (resistance welding, arc welding, flame or plasma cutting or gouging, automated or manual etc)
- Where you’ll be welding and cutting (indoor, outdoor, confined or restricted space)
- How long the welder will be creating fume. This is usually less than the total time on shift. Typically a production welder will spend about half the shift time creating fume. A jobbing welder/ fabricator may spend significantly less time that this.)
- What filler wire/ consumables you are using (aluminium, carbon steel, stainless or hardfacing wires)
- Are you welding or cutting through any coatings, plating or contamination
- Is extraction suitable for the job? For many manual welding and cutting jobs it is not practical to use fixed or flexible extraction systems and you may need to use airfed RPE to protect the welder.
Some examples of circumstances where extraction is normally needed
- Moderate to high volume MIG/MAG production welding, small or medium sized parts, welding on a bench; or in a screened off area. Welding on carbon (mild) steels and aluminium;
- High volume production welding using TIG on stainless steels or aluminium ;
- Welding of stainless steels using MIG, MAG, Flux cored or MMA (stick welding);
- Arc air gouging (you’ll normally need RPE + fume extraction);
- Welding or hot cutting galvanised materials (zinc plated);
- Welding or hot cutting materials containing cadmium, or painted with lead or chromate paints. It is better to remove the coating before welding but if you can’t then effective fume extraction and RPE is needed;
- automated cutting (eg flame or plasma). Many cutting machines already have extraction systems built in to the cutting table;
- automated multi-head resistance welding machines.
Some examples where you will not normally need extraction
All examples assume the work piece is free from contaminants (dirt, grease, excessive oil, etc) and surface coatings (plating, paints, etc).
- Welding and hot cutting outdoors;
- flame welding (oxy/acetylene welding);
- a few minutes every hour of manual arc welding to tacking or small repairs (except on stainless steels)
- a few minutes every hour of flame or plasma cutting;
If you do use extraction, it’ll only work if it’s used properly
- In most situations welding fume can be easily seen. If you can see that most of the fume is going up the extractor then your positioning is about right