A question we often get asked is ‘what sort of protection do I need when welding galvanised steel?’ Everyone knows the danger of welding fumes from gal – with the health effects ranging from headaches, cramping and nausea to metal fume fever and respiratory diseases.
Galvanised steel gives off dangerous zinc oxide particles when welded. As mentioned in the AWS Welding Fume White Paper released earlier this year, welding fumes have been reclassified from ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ to ‘carcinogenic to humans’. It has never been more important for welders (and their respective employers) to review their workplace safety controls. Respiratory protection and good ventilation are a necessity!
What protection do you actually need?
P2 level protection and a Required Minimum Protection Factor (RMPF) relevant to the Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) referenced in the relevant Safety Data Sheet and understanding of your work environment. P2 rated respirators protect against thermally generated particulates (which includes those given off when welding galvanised steel). You may also notice an odour or sour taste from the fume – if so, using an additional odour filter will help.
What are my options?
GOOD: Disposable Respirators
The 3M 9322A+ mask gives you P2 protection and fits comfortably under your welding helmet. It features a Cool Flow valve which reduces heat and moisture build-up, keeping you cooler. If you require odour protection also, we recommend choosing a Reusable Respirator instead. Disposable respirators give you a Required Minimum Protection Factor (RMPF) of 10 meaning that if worn correctly the air you breathe will be 10 times cleaner than you would be breathing with no protection.
BETTER: Reusable Respirators
Reusable Respirators are comfortable and more versatile, with a range of separate filters which can be stacked on to the mask. This configuration lets you combine particulate, filter or odour protection to suit your environment. For Speedglas 9100 customers, the 3M 7528 Welding Respirator Kit gives you everything you need to get started. If you use a Speedglas 100 Series helmet, the 3M 6528 Welding Respirator Kit can be used. Reusable respirators give you an RMPF of 10 meaning that if worn correctly the air you breathe will be 10 times cleaner than you would be breathing with no protection.
BEST: Powered Air
A powered air system is a belt-mounted respirator which provides welders with fresh, clean air by filtering out harmful particles, odours or gases. The Adflo PAPR range has different filters which can be ‘stacked on’ to give you flexible gas, odour or particle protection. The Adflo system is used in conjunction with the Speedglas 9100XXi Series of welding helmets, with a range of helmet configurations available. Powered air respirators give you an RMPF of 50 meaning that if worn correctly the air you breathe will be 50 times cleaner than you would be breathing with no protection.