"Standards have never been as high as they are today".
April 28, 2022 TEKA | Gaby Wenning
TEKA on World Day for Safety and Health at Work
People around the world are still exposed to many safety and health risks through their work. Today, Thursday 28 April, is therefore the "World Day for Safety and Health at Work". The day of action was already introduced in 1984 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to promote safe, healthy and decent work. The ILO estimates that about 6,000 people worldwide die every day due to work-related accidents or diseases. Wherever metals are processed by welding, cutting or grinding in the world, clean and unhealthy air is of particular concern as a basic right of workers.
Invisible danger - fine dust
The challenge: to combat fine dust as an invisible danger. Fine dust is produced directly during welding. It consists of the smallest solid and liquid particles, which are divided into different particle fractions. Particles with a diameter of up to 10 μm (PM10/PM = particulate matter) are referred to as fine dust. Particles around 3-10 μm in size are deposited in the nose and throat. Particles around 2.5 μm (PM2.5) are respirable. Particles smaller than 1 μm (PM1) even enter the bloodstream via the alveoli. The health effects are enormous and range from irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes to damage to the alveoli and plaque formation in the blood vessels. According to the WHO, long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can lead to arteriosclerosis, impair births and trigger respiratory diseases in children. The Federal Environment Agency estimates that about 47,000 deaths a year in Germany can be attributed to fine dust.
Depending on the welding processes and materials, welding fumes with fine dust therefore pose a high potential risk to the health of welders. The smoke particles here are usually smaller than 1 µm or predominantly even smaller than 0.1 µm (ultra-fine dust particles). All welding smoke is therefore alveolar. When inhaled, it penetrates deep into the alveoli and settles there. At best, the particles have a lung-damaging effect. Often, however, they are toxic, as is the case with copper, manganese or zinc oxide. Inhaling welding fumes from the processing of chromium (VI) compounds, lead, titanium or nickel oxides can even lead to cancer.
Throughout Europe, legislators have raised the standards for healthy indoor air enormously against the background of this health burden. In addition, more and more companies are becoming health conscious. Promoting the health of employees is a high priority, also in view of the increasing shortage of skilled workers and the growing sensitivity to sustainability issues.
"Health standards in manufacturing companies where welding fumes and dusts are generated have risen enormously. Thanks to modern filter and extraction systems and the latest filter media, it is easier than ever to ensure clean air beyond the legal requirements, especially in welding and cutting," says TEKA Managing Director Simon Telöken. "Especially in times of crisis, companies should not put off investments in the area of health protection and prevention, for which subsidies are sometimes available," the managing director recommends.
Play it safe - W3 certified equipment
When purchasing new equipment, companies are on the safe side if they look for test marks such as the W3 certification, which TEKA offers for almost all of its extraction and filter systems. With this test mark, the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health distinguishes systems that meet the highest requirements, e.g. with regard to volume flow, positionable extraction bonnets, spark pre-separators, etc., and that separate at least 99 % of the extracted welding fumes.