Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dangers of Welding on Stainless Steel-Hexavalent Chromium (Cr6)

Dangers of Welding on Stainless Steel:

Stainless steel is a very popular and attractive looking metal. It has become particularly popular in recent years, and is becoming more readily available in labs, photo studios, garages, and kitchens. With the current change in OSHA’s Hexavalent Chromium standard to 5 micrograms per cubic meter the risk of exposing employees is not only real, it can be potentially expensive. Recently, I was visiting a fabrication studio and the employer told me that he was really concerned about his welder’s exposure to hex chrome. I explained that the concern was legitimate and he should not take his employees safety lightly. His first problem was determining if he indeed had a problem with CR6 exposure in the welding shop. My recommendation to him was to obtain some sampling pumps that utilize particulate based filters and test the air quality. I suggested taking samples in the operators breathing zone for the entire time he welded. In this case, the welder would weld all morning long, and return in the afternoon for another hour or so. I heard back from this individual a few weeks later, and he told me that he was slightly below OSHA’s new limit of 5 micrograms per cubic meter. His concern was if production picked up would he still be complainant. I also reminded him that this test was conducted during the summer when the bay doors in the warehouse are open. During the winter the overhead doors remain closed, thus increasing potential exposure. The client agreed that this was a valid concern and wanted to reduce exposure immediately. I recommended local ventilation exhaust as a means of drawing the contaminated air away from the operators. The only problem with the exhaust was the proximity of the welding shop. The facility was also leased and he was not permitted to install duct-work. I looked at several options for this client, and the most practical was a portable re-circulating system. Please do not be fooled, not all of these systems will be applicable for compliance on Hexavalent Chromium. It is important to identify the proper filtration media prior to making a purchasing decision. The client was really wrapped up on overall air volume, which is very important but I reminded him that the system needed to have a HEPA filter. Most medical grade, or “true HEPA” filters will be up to 99.97% efficient on particles .3 microns and larger. This is a very small particle size, and will be a good fit for removal of the Hexavalent Chromium particulate. I was able to implement a nice system at a fraction of the alternative exterior exhaust, and the next test proved that the system was extremely effective reducing employee exposure by twofold. Just remember, there are a lot of different options and engineering controls that you can be used to control employee exposure. Be sure to be diligent and research thoroughly. You need to find something that will actually do the trick and not just postpone the problem.

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  6. Just what fumes can you be exposed to as a welder? Manganese is the biggest danger when you are working without liquid control distributor. Manganese can cause serious damage to your nervous system and brain. Many welders that are exposed to manganese develop Parkinson's disease. Often they develop what is known as "manganism" which is a disease that is closely related to Parkinson's and makes it difficult to move or walk properly. Tremors, shakes, and muscle control loss are also symptoms and both diseases get worse as time moves on.