Welding Smoke Eater

Why is it required?

Welding smoke eaters are required in a full range of applications to properly remove harmful fumes, smoke, and other air contaminants before they enter respiratory zones. Employers are solely responsible for workplace conditions, safety measures, and the way that machine processes are performed. It's critical that employers and welders remain current and abide by appropriate OSHA and NIOSH regulations and follow manufacturer safety and operation manuals.

Welding smoke is closely regulated because of the safety risks associated with it. The volume of weld smoke and the size of the particulate that makes up weld smoke vary depending on the machining process and materials used. Without an effective capture and control solution, the particles found in welding smoke can become easily trapped in the respiratory system creating severe long-term health risks

Welding smoke eaters remove fumes and smoke from the work area to prevent hazardous contaminants from entering the airstream. Implementing welding smoke eaters are improve the overall air quality making the work environment more comfortable and lowering the number of accidents. To ensure effectiveness, welding smoke eaters must be properly used and positioned based on the specific machining process and application taking place. Welding smoke eaters are required in commercial and industrial applications to capture harmful fumes, gases, smoke, and other airborne contaminants before reaching breathing zones.

When selecting a welding smoke eater, it's important to evaluate and identify the work practices, hazards, and consumables of welding applications in your facility to establish a required level of fume control in order to keep exposures below an acceptable limit.

Machine operator working on a welding project while smoke arises.

Weld Fume Exposure Risks

Welding fumes are made up of an intricate combination of silicates, metallic oxides, and fluorides and typically contain particles from the electrode and material being welded. Weld fumes are produced when metals or alloys are heated above their boiling points and fumes compress into very fine, solid particulate. Welding fume exposure can be affected by a number of things including:

• The specific welding process
• Where the welding takes place (indoors/outdoors)
• Ventilation and extraction methods
• Work methods and practices
• The metals or alloys being used
• Air pattern and movement efficiency
• Welding rod composition

There are two categories of welding: fusion and pressure. Fusion welding is a heat-based process and pressure welding is a combination of both heat and pressure. Electric, Arc, Gas, and Thermit all fall under the category of fusion welding. Electric arc, also known as MIG welding, is the most commonly used.

• In the fusion welding process, the joint of the material is heated until melted & then hardens to join.

• During pressure welding, the metal is heated until it becomes plastic-like and is then joined by outside pressure.

Fumes transmitted during welding processes present various health hazards and after long-term exposure can cause severe damage to the health of machine operators. When determining what type of welding smoke eater best meets the demands of your application you'll need to understand CFM requirements, air flow rates, air exchanges, and what contaminants you're dealing with (fumes, smoke, sparks, etc.).

For example, TIG welding generally requires a smoke eater designed to handle lighter applications while MIG welding requires a system that captures a higher amount of CFM.

What's in Welding Fumes?

The elements found in weld fumes vary based on the composition of the electrode and the coatings, paint, or plating of the base metal.

• Fumes produced by stainless steel are composed of larger amounts of chromium or nickel and less iron.

• Unmistakably, nickel alloys have less iron and higher amounts of nickel.

• Welding fluxes containing silica or fluoride produce metallic silicates, fluoride fumes, and amorphous silica.

• The most common compounds found in fumes from mild or carbon steel are complex oxides of iron with small amounts of silicon, and manganese, chromium, nickel, vanadium, cobalt, molybdenum, copper, and titanium.

Machine operator working on welding project

What About Welding Gases?

MIG and TIG among other welding and cutting processes utilize shielding gases to protect the work area from oxygen and water vapor. There may also be fuel gases present such as acetylene, propane, and butane.

Weld fumes may be made up of argon, helium, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide shielding gases, as well as, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, phosgene, hydrogen fluoride, and carbon dioxide welding process gases.

Don't forget about fumes from metal coatings!

Vinyl paint - hydrogen chloride
Expoxy coatings - carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide
Phosphate paint - phosphine
Polyurethane coatings - formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen cyanide, and isocyanate fumes

As welding safety continues to advance, it's important to remain in compliance and up-to-date on training and educational information.

To learn more, refer to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and AWS (American Welding Society) U.S. federal standards related to welding processes. For help determining which solution best meets the demands of your application, get in touch with one of our experts today.

Welding fume and smoke during a machine process

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