Welding produces a hazardous mix of visible smoke and microscopic particulates that can cause lasting health issues. With over 500,000 full-time welders active across the country, exposure protections like weld fume extractors are essential equipment for American workshops. This article explores US regulations around welding fume, selecting compliant extractors, and recent advances in extraction technology domestically.
OSHA Standards for Welding Fume Exposure
Unlike Europe which recently implemented binding exposure limits for welding fume, the USA follows permissible exposure limits (PELs) under OSHA guidelines. General welding fumes such as iron oxide have a 5 mg/m3 PEL based on an 8 hour time weighted average. More hazardous chromium compounds like hexavalent chrome have a much lower PEL of 0.005 mg/m3 reflecting the higher risks.
Additionally, OSHA rules 1910.252 -.255 dictate requirements around electrical safety, protective clothing, ventilation, respiratory equipment and containment solutions that apply to welding operations. Failure to comply risks harsh penalties, especially when inspector visits originate from employee health complaints.
Why US Shops Need Centralized or Portable Extractors
OSHA does not explicitly mandate that American workshops have functioning ventilation or extraction equipment under the maximum permissible exposure limits in place currently. However, liability around providing a safe workspace and more stringent state regulations are compelling reasons to install control measures. Plus staying below 50% of the 5mg/m3 PEL for general fume is advised to account for faulty filter leakage.
For small job shops, portable extractors with flexible arms keep costs reasonable by moving with the work. Larger manufacturing firms often employ networked ventilation ducting and benches with built-in backdrops to capture fumes consistently without impeding workflows. Either solution beats relying on after-the-fact air filters and PPE alone from both performance and compliance standpoints.
Key Considerations When Selecting US Extraction
- High airflow draw (150-250+ CFM)
- Cleanable or replaceable filter system
- Automatic sensors to adjust fan speed
- Durable and easy to maneuver
- Allows proper arm positioning
- Warranty period
- Appropriate ventilation ducting
Innovative Welding Fume Extractors by Transals
A recently introduced product that aims to revolutionize welding fume extraction is the Translas line of torches and extractors. Translas is a Dutch manufacturer of welding equipment and accessories that has developed patented built-in fume extraction torches. Their torches capture fumes directly at the welding tip, achieving up to 98% fume extraction efficiency according to internal testing. This method pulls the dangerous particles away before the operator can inhale them rather than trying to chase them around the workspace with external arms. The welding fume extractor torches connect to standalone mobile filter units that clean and recirculate the air. Translas touts these integrated extractor torches and filters as the future of safer and more productive welding fume capture. They offer different torch heads for MIG, TIG, and stick welding.
Protecting Our Nation of Welders
With intricate steel assemblies across our infrastructure, vehicles, and buildings, America relies on its skilled welding workforce. Keeping those men and women breathing safely will remain the responsibility of every shop owner and welding services manager. Contact experts in the field to ensure your ventilation controls meet the performance, compliance and ease-of-use required to stay protective over years of changing standards. Technology in nooks and crannies of industry may progress slowly, but incremental automation and filtration improvements add up to cleaner air. And clean air flowing freely allows great American welders to practice their craft productively for years to come.