Staying Safe: Avoid the health risks associated with welding fume by using Girder Clamps.
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Staying Safe: Avoid the health risks associated with welding fume by using Girder Clamps.

Written by: Damian Haigh

25/06/24  |  9 Min read

In 2017 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classified welding fume as a Group 1 carcinogen. This classification indicates that there is substantial evidence linking welding fumes to an increased risk of cancer.

In this article we are going to take an in depth look at what welding fume is, the health risks associated with it, and how Girder Clamps can be used as an alternative connection method to eliminate the dangers.

The re-classification of welding fumes emphasised the very real health risks that welders face everyday while doing their job. It serves as a reminder that welders need to take precautions to protect their health, even if the risk is not obviously visible.

What is welding fume?

The process of welding produces harmful welding fume that can easily enter the human respiratory system and generally consists of two main components:

Metal Dust: Extremely fine metal dust particles created by welding are often highly concentrated and can appear like smoke which can then be inhaled if proper precautions are not taken. This dust can be made up of a number of toxic metals, including Aluminium, Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silver, Tin, Titanium, Vanadium and Zinc.

Gases: A number of gasses that are potentially harmful can be created through welding including Argon, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Helium, Hydrogen Fluoride, Nitric Acid, Nitrogen, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, and Phosgene.

What are the health risks from welding fume?

Both acute and chronic health risks are associated with the inhalation of welding fume. Occupational lung disease, including lung cancer, is the most common health risk, but damage to the brain and nervous system can also occur. There is also a significant risk from asphyxiation (suffocation from lack of oxygen) when welding in confined spaces.

Some of the most common health effects include:

  • Cancer: Various types of cancer - commonly lung, larynx and urinary tract - can be caused by exposure to nickel and chromium.
  • Emphysema: A long-term, progressive lung disease, emphysema causes shortness of breath and is incurable. Cadmium exposure can lead to emphysema.
  • Kidney Failure: Acute kidney failure requires intensive treatment and can often be fatal. Exposure to cadmium and lead oxide may lead to kidney failure.
  • Lead Poisoning and Anaemia: Lead poisoning can result in severe mental and physical impairment. Though it is treatable, the damage cannot be reversed. In severe cases, it can lead to anaemia, which can result in damaged organs. This can be caused by exposure to fumes containing lead oxide.
  • Manganism (Parkinson’s disease-like syndrome): Like Parkinson’s, manganism symptoms affect the central nervous system and may include tremors, slowness of movement, muscle rigidity, and poor balance. This can be caused by chronic exposure to high concentrations of manganese fume.
  • Metal Fume Fever: Symptoms of metal fume fever include chills, sweating and stomach pains. This can be caused by inhaling excessive zinc fumes during welding of galvanized metal.
  • Irritation of the nose, sinus, throat and lungs: General irritation and discomfort across the respiratory system may be caused by inhalation of fumes containing iron oxide or chromium.
  • Asthma: Those with asthma often suffer from coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Exposure to nickel can worsen symptoms and increase the frequency of attacks.

Other hazards associated with welding

There are also many other hazards associated with welding which can have time, cost and of course health and safety implications on-site.  

  • Risk of fire requires hot works permit
  • Fire Watch required if building has no fire protection system
  • Risk of serious personal injury
  • Electric shock, radiation, burns, heat stress
  • Weld slag inclusion increases risk of joint failure
  • Potential for spatter and corrective measures
  • Compressed gas cylinder explosions
  • Damage to corrosion resistant or intumescent finishes
  • Production of CO2 emissions during arc welding

Lindapter girder clamps - the safer alternative to welding

Government health and safety agencies all over the world advocate a hierarchy of controls for welding to help eliminate or minimise exposure to welding fume. The first step is to consider whether the process of welding can be completely eliminated or substituted by designing the job differently. This is where the designer can choose to use Lindapter girder clamps as an alternative connection method.  

Lindapter girder clamps provide a safer alternative to welding as they can be used to connect steel members, such as beams and columns, with just standard hand tools. This method of connection  eliminates the production of any dangerous fumes, thereby significantly reducing the health risks faced by construction workers.

Lindapter girder clamps provide a high strength connection that is quickly achieved by clamping two steel sections together with a standard girder clamp configuration consisting of Lindapter clamps, a location plate, bolts, washers and nuts.

During on site installation, the location plate is brought into position and the steel beams are then aligned by sliding the sections into the correct position. The Lindapter clamps, bolts, washers and nuts are then fitted to hold the connection in place, and a torque wrench used to tighten each bolt to the recommended torque.

Other health and safety benefits of clamping

  • No exposure to carcinogenic or toxic fumes
  • No exposure to spatter (molten metal particles) caused by welding
  • No exposure to swarf (sharp waste material) caused by drilling
  • No exposure to dangerous metal dust or fumes
  • No hot work therefore zero risk of fire
  • No fire watch required, even in buildings with no fire protection
  • No large or heavy equipment therefore working at height is safer

Summary

In summary, Lindapter girder clamps offer an alternative connection method that can completely remove the need for on-site welding and therefore the dangers associated with welding fume. To improve workplace safety for construction workers on your next project contact Lindapter and our experienced engineers will work with you to design the optimum girder clamp connection detail.

Faster to Install

No drilling or welding!

Independently Approved

Reasons to choose Lindapter

  • Save time and money

    Save time and money

    Clamping two steel sections together avoids time-consuming welding or conventional drilling and bolting.

  • Safer connections

    Safer connections

    On-site drilling and welding is avoided, removing the need for hot work permits and encouraging safer site conditions.

  • High strength

    High strength

    Lindapter clamps are manufactured from high strength materials to resist high load requirements and harsh environments.

  • Industry leading approvals

    Industry leading approvals

    Lindapter has earned a reputation synonymous with safety and reliability, gaining multiple independent approvals.

  • Adjustable

    Adjustable

    Quickly align steel sections by sliding the section into the correct position before tightening the Girder Clamp to complete the installation.

  • Free connection design

    Free connection design

    Lindapter’s experienced Engineers can design a bespoke connection based on your specific requirements free of charge.

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