As winter approaches, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to fumes generated from within the shop.
No matter what anybody says, repairing cars is still a dangerous profession. Banged up vehicles present hazards ranging from sharp edges, to leaking fluids, not mention the potential for ingesting dangerous fumes during the repair and refinish process.
Perhaps one of the most frequently overlooked aspects to the repair process, concerns fumes generated from welding. Sure, we’ve seen an increase in vendors offering dust extraction systems, designed to retrieve aluminum particles and prevent contamination of surfaces but one of the most deadly issues concerns manganese and chromium.
Repeated exposure to these two elements can cause neurotoxic damage, leading to shakes, emotional issues, sexual dis-function and difficulty walking or coordinating limb movements. Chromium is recognized as an occupational carcinogen that can potentially lead to cancer.
The trouble is, that in a shop environment, especially when access doors are closed (like during winter time), technicians can regularly and easily be exposed to general welding plume (that contains manganese and chromium gas) generated from stick welding electrodes and flux.
Currently, there is no official standard regarding general weld fume extraction and even OEM programs tend to make weld fume extraction equipment an optional (not mandatory) part of the repair process.
The trouble is, that chromium and manganese are silent killers, meaning they can be impacting technicians and the side effects cannot be felt until too late. Besides causing sickness and potentially death, these toxic gases can also impact the shop’s performance, resulting in absenteeism, greater injury, downtime, lost productivity and additional expenses such as increased healthcare costs and compensation claims.
Given the pressures on profit margins these days, downtime and additional expense burdens are factors many shops want to avoid at all costs.
Therefore, investing in heavy-duty weld fume extraction equipment that is designed to collect fumes well before it reaches the technician’s breathing zone within the specified work area is a sound strategy.
Systems that incorporate features such as fans to draw fumes out at their source and funnel them through heavy duty tubing made from materials such as cast aluminum, are seen as a highly effective way of minimizing manganese and chromium build up in the shop, making for a healthier and more productive working environment.
Like many things, investing in high quality weld fume extraction equipment might seem like an additional cost up front, but in the long run, the benefits will far outweigh that initial expense.
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