A wide array of welding techniques is in practice today, but a majority of them fall into the oxy-fuel welding or electric arc welding categories. These activities have been known to produce several hazards through ultraviolet radiation in the welding arc and contaminants production in welding fumes.
These are referred to as Group-1 Carcinogens which means it can be one of the factors responsible for causing cancer in humans. When a welder is exposed to UV radiation or fumes, it escalates the risk of developing melanoma in lungs, eyes and other cancers.
The risk of cancer and its correlation with welding
1. Type of material being welded
2. The process of welding used
3. Air Contaminants
4. Shielding gas or flux
5. Indoor or outdoor welding
6. Power settings
7. Time is taken in the welding process
8. Consumables being used
These risk of cancer in a person is dependent on the above factors.
Contaminants in Air
When a metal is a heated way above its boiling point, welding fumes are created. As the metal cools down and gets condensed to form fumes, it gives away fine particles that can be breathed in.
Some of the welding fumes may not be visible, and as such, the welder may not even be aware that he is breathing in those fumes. These fumes are known to contain carcinogens or potential cancer-causing agents that include silicates, metallic oxides, and fluorides.
Ultraviolet radiation has also been found to be a carcinogen. Laser welding and electric arc welding gives off Ultraviolet radiation. Thus, a welder gets exposed to this radiation produced by the welding arc that gets reflected off smooth and hard surfaces surrounding the welder.
This exposure can cause eye damage, sunburn, eye melanoma, skin cancer, and cataracts.
The Ultraviolet radiation and its effect is dependent on the following factors-
• Laser welding or electric arc welding
• Radiation intensity
• Duration of radiation exposure
• Distance from where welding activity is going on
Measure To Ensure Safety Against The Risk Of Cancer
The growing risk of cancer to the people working in the field of welding has necessitated the use of some effective controls in the form of safety and health laws. The employers are expected to fulfill the following responsibilities-
# Employers are supposed to ensure the safety and health of their workers at their workplace.
# Welders also need to be aware of their safety and health.
# Wearing welding helmets properly. The adjustable straps
of welding helmets ensure the helmet in a proper position thereby controlling the contaminants breathed in.
# Welders must follow the rules or laws pertaining to their safety in the workplace.
# Employers must take steps as per Health and Safety policies to minimize contaminants exposure in air.
In the absence of these health and safety measures, the exposure of welders to carcinogens increases. Every workplace must have a risk management process, and the workers must be actively involved so that they are aware of the risks associated with their jobs and they fully embrace control measures in place meeting precise safety and health requirement.
The breathing zone must have air monitoring on a regular basis to check if controls are successfully able to check contaminants in the air. It can be done by engaging the services of an occupational hygienist. When stringent measures are followed, the risk factor is substantially reduced.