Once I set myself to restore and refinish a mahogany (I think) door. I pulled it out of its hinges and placed it in a well ventilated outdoor area. I used one of those chemical paint removers, and, after a couple of hours, I had a nice shiny door ready for refinishing … and a terrible headache. What I had thought as enough – a well ventilated outdoor spot – hadn’t been. I should have used a respirator. I always have this episode in mind when visiting sugar factories and ask to see the workshops or places where welding is done. Because, if two hours of working on a wood door gave me such a headache, what would be the effect of exposing oneself to the fumes and gases produced while welding?
There are some basic personal protective measures to take while welding, such using aprons, visors and gloves but, also, some engineering and structural issues have to be taken into account, such as a working space and proper ventilation. Sometimes, as shown in Photo 1, it’s rather difficult to move the piece being welded to the workshop, then, some extra protective equipment is needed, such a respirator!… as the one I failed to use while working on my door. Also notice how the person on the far left is well aware of not looking/being exposed to the bright light as she covers her face while walking next to the welder.
Photos 2 and 3 describe a situation quite uncompressible. The worker did not even wear welding goggles!
Photo 4 shows a positive situation, as the welding section of the workshop has been isolated and metal sheets prevented other workers from being exposed. The challenge is the ventilation system or, more properly, its absence. I was told that there have been cases of theft, and therefore the windows had been shut down… no natural circulation of air was possible and the exhaust system was not operational.
The worker in Photo 5 might end his work-shifts with a headache similar to mine. He’s working outdoors, using a visor, and, hopefully, not breathing too heavily into the fumes and gases.
I wonder how these workers feel after welding, probably seven to eight hours per day, in these conditions.
See here an interesting document by the Alberta provincial government: Welder’s Guide to the Hazards of Welding Gases and Fumes