LEV for the Control of Welding Fumes in the Construction Industry – Literature Review
Arc welding is a common unit operation in the construction industry, where frequent changes in location and welding position make it more difficult to control fume exposures than in industries where fixed locations are the norm.
Welders may be exposed to a variety of toxic airborne contaminants including manganese (Mn) and hexavalent chromium (CrVI). Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is a well-known engineering control for welding fumes but has not been adopted widely in the construction industry. This literature review presents data on the performance of a variety of LEV systems for welding fume control from the construction (five references), shipyard (five references), and other industries.
The studies indicate that LEV can reduce fume exposures to total particulate, Mn, and CrVI to levels below currently relevant standards. Field studies suggest that 40–50% or more reduction in exposure is possible with portable or fixed LEV systems relative to natural ventilation but that correct positioning of the hood and adequate exhaust flow rates are essential. Successful implementation of extraction guns for gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and flux core arc welding has been demonstrated, indicating that a successful balance between extraction airflow and shielding gas requirements is possible.
Work practices are an important part of achieving successful control of fume exposures; in particular, positioning the hood close to the arc, checking exhaust flow rates, and avoiding the plume. Further research is needed on hood size effects for controlling welding fume with portable LEV systems and identifying and overcoming barriers to LEV use in construction.