Many Pennsylvania workers use welding as a part of their jobs. They need to understand that welding involves the possible exposure to any number of toxic metals and gas byproducts. These toxic byproducts are produced with all types of welding. Potentially harmful gases that may be released during welding include carbon dioxide, argon, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen fluoride. Additionally, workers may also be exposed to metals, including aluminum, beryllium, manganese, lead and arsenic.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns that exposure to these gas and metal byproducts can lead to serious health problems. Workers who are exposed to the fumes produced by welding for a short period of time, may suffer from irritation to their throat, nose and eyes, dizziness and nausea. Exposures that happen over longer periods of time may result in cancer of the urinary tract, lungs and larynx.
The agency’s recommendations include that employers offer training so that welders understand the risks involved with welding. All work surfaces should be cleaned frequently to prevent the buildup of toxic substances. Workers should never weld without using the proper respiratory equipment, and employers should make certain that indoor welding is only completed in areas that have local exhaust ventilation systems installed. Confined-space welding should be avoided, and when workers are welding outdoors, they should try to remain upwind of any fumes that are produced.
Although workers’ compensation is commonly associated with on-the-job injuries, benefits can also be provided to a worker who contracts an occupational illness resulting from toxic exposure. As the connection between the illness and working conditions may be difficult to demonstrate, those who are in this position may want to have the assistance of an attorney when preparing and submitting their claims.