Emerging Risk: Welding Fumes

Working together to reduce fume exposure

Pacific Energy Fireplace Products has employed workers from the Cowichan Valley over the past 40 years. While the company has never had a serious incident, two years ago they hired Irene Llewellyn-McMartin, Safety Coordinator, to develop a Health and Safety Management Plan and review the processes already in place.

One of the key changes made to improve welder safety was to formalize Safe Work Practices and Procedures. Irene, in conjunction with the Alliance, completed a GAP Analysis to identify where improvements could be made.

Irene says, “We’ve found the Alliance is an excellent resource for professional advice and sharing of knowledge.”

Many of the steps Pacific Energy have taken apply to other welding situations as well. For example, each welding station is equipped with a ventilation fan to exhaust fumes to the outside and all welders are provided with a selection of air-purifying respirators.

The respirators are fit-tested to each welder, who is then educated on the care and limitations of a half-mask respirator. Some welders prefer a respirator with a backpack adaptor, allowing respirator cartridges to be worn on a welder’s back and not inside the mask.

Shannon Huberdeau, Woodline Supervisor, also makes sure that the masks are worn correctly. Shannon says, “The face mask is critical safety equipment and must fit properly. All workers must be clean shaven where the mask seals on the face and any welder reporting to work not shaved is sent home to shave.”

To further keep welders cool, Pacific Energy provides cooling belts. These fit inside a welder’s mask and blow cool, filtered air over the face, keeping the welder cool and their safety glasses from fogging up. The company also provides fire-resistant coveralls and leather welding sleeves, gloves and lap aprons.

Irene adds: “ Pacific Energy is a very progressive company consistently looking for ways to improve our processes. Our first consideration is always, ‘Will this make our workers safer?’”