A routine part of many South Carolina workers’ jobs is welding, whether full- or part-time. While welding may seem like a normal part of the job, it is important that welders understand the risks that are involved if they are exposed to the fumes that are produced. Both pressure and fusion welding produce dangerous gas and metal byproducts in the fumes. Workers may be exposed to such substances as arsenic, lead, manganese, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and others, resulting in dangerous health problems.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, exposure to welding fumes may leave a worker with an irritated nose, eyes and throat even in the short-term. When the exposure is ongoing, a worker may develop lung, urinary tract or laryngeal cancer.
OSHA states that workers should be provided with good respiratory equipment that they are required to use every time they weld. They should never weld in an unventilated space that is confined, and employers should have good exhaust systems installed in indoor welding locations. Workers who are welding outside should try to stay upwind of the smoke that is produced. All surfaces in the welding areas should be thoroughly cleaned in order to prevent toxic buildup.
Workers who suffer from work-related illnesses are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits just as workers who are injured in a workplace accident are. Employers and their workers’ compensation insurance carriers sometimes dispute that illnesses resulted from the working environment, however, as the connection is not as obvious as an injury incurred on the job. This is why is might be advisable for an ill worker to have legal assistance throughout the process.