Up in Smoke

Smoke and fumes play a part of any welding job and can pose real health hazards. Most of us realize that Hexavalent Chromium exposure is a concern in our craft. 

Hexavalent Chrome (hexchrome) is a microscopic metallic particle found in stainless steel welding fume that is formed when hot work is done on stainless steel or with high chrome wire or stick filler. 

Hexavalent Chromium compounds (or Cr(VI)) are a large group of chemicals with varying chemical properties and uses. Cr(VI) properties include corrosion-resistance, durability, and hardness. Workers may be exposed to airborne Cr(VI) when these compounds are manufactured from other forms of chromium (e.g., the production of chromates from chromite ore); when products containing Cr(VI) are used to manufacture other products (e.g., chromate-containing paints, electroplating); or when products containing other forms of chromium are used in processes that result in the formation of Cr(VI) as a by-product such as in welding. 

Exposure to inhaled airborne Hexavalent Chromium can occur when: 

  • Welding and hotworking stainless steel, high chrome alloys and chrome-coated metal. 
  • Producing chromate pigments and powders; chromic acid; chromium catalysts, dyes, and coatings.
  • Working near chrome electroplating.
  • Applying and removing chromate-containing paints and other surface coatings. 

To protect workers from this hazardous substance, OSHA regulates exposure levels to hexchrome with a permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air. 

Wachs Services tests our shop every 6 months for potential exposures to this and other materials that could present a health issue. We have seen remarkable results from the engineering controls we have in place with all samples collected reporting under PEL. 

Wachs Services reduces the potential of exposure of our teams to hexchrome typically one (or more) of the following ways: 

  • Dilution Ventilation – Typical work area where air is forced either into or out of the area, usually with a fan 
  • Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) - Our Red-D-Arc and other HEPA vacuum units 
  • Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)
  • PPE - Respirator half face or full face with appropriate cartridge. 

The LEV units work well in our sample data. However, in order to provide maximum benefit and protection of the worker, the units must be set up properly. For examples and information on LEV use and other safety issues,
see this edition of Wachs Weekly!



Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe this Memorial Day weekend.