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Overcome Weld Fume Collection Issues

Many of you have tried a variety of weld fume collectors over the years and for the most part, they get pushed into a corner and left unused.

Why do the welders hate using them so much? The reason, in my mind is simple: they’re not easy to use. Why not?

  • The first reason is the collection arms are hard to adjust and don’t stay in place.
  • The second reason is that the collectors are too bulky and hard to move around.
  • And the last reason is the welders just don’t want to use them.

Let’s discuss these issues in reverse order.

First, if your welders aren’t using the collector just because they don’t want to, they probably don’t know that many welding processes give off hazardous fumes that if ingested long enough could cause harm. Especially any metals that have chrome or zinc. Hexavalent chromium, which is a bi-product of welding stainless steels and other non-ferrous metals has been shown to cause cancer when workers are exposed to even the smallest amount. There is no refuting this and the evidence is so great that major manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to control the fume.

Here’s something from OSHA on the topic, and here’s a PDF from them on controlling welding fumes.

In addition, welding metals containing zinc can cause nausea, vomiting as well as other symptoms.

The bottom line to this is that if your workers refuse to use air cleaners, as an owner you need to make it mandatory. If someone gets ill from a work related problem, there may be serious financial consequences.

If you do that though, you better make sure you have the easiest equipment to use.

The second objection was: “It’s too hard to move around.”

That may be true with a lot of portable collectors. They can be fairly large and depending on the size of the welding booth, may take up a significant amount of room. There are other ways to skin the cat including wall mount collection arms and backdraft systems, depending on your layout. Central systems can be costly and inflexible if you ever want to move or re-layout your building. Before you buy one, make sure to talk to owners who have done it.

There are more maneuverable collectors available which you may consider for individual weld stations. Here’s one:

The last objection is that the arms always need adjusting. I can attest to that. It seems like the arm never stays where you want it and you have to keep making adjustments to the adjustment screw or whatever holding device is used. Most manufacturers have gone to external adjustments on the arm to at least avoid having to get inside the arm which is generally a hard place to get to. But there are some that continue to have the arm adjustments hidden under the flex hose or tube, which really makes adjustments hard. In addition to being hard to get to, internal adjustments also increase drag inside the arm which reduces airflow. And many still have issues with droop, and if they don’t droop, they are too tight to move freely.

This new arm from Air Quality Engineering, Inc. uses an external support mechanism to help eliminate drag in the duct as well as a tried and true linkage which hold its place under all conditions. I think it’s one of the best in the industry.

Another arm related issue which can cause frustration is that many welders position the hood incorrectly, which either renders the capture hood ineffective or in some cases may defeat the purpose of eliminating fume going through the welders breathing zone. Most experts agree that the proper position of the intake hood is 90 degrees to the welding plume. The hood should be within 18″ of the arc to capture the fume, but not too close to take away shielding gases. This assumes the air cleaner you bought has a minimum of 125-175 feet per minute at the source.

When looking for fume extraction equipment, be sure to test the arm and have the people using it have a chance to try it if possible. After all, they’re the ones who will push it in in corner when they don’t like it.