The importance of meeting OSHA standards for ventilation

Improve the air and your bottom line

How healthy is the air in your fabrication shop? Do you feel comfortable and safe working there for hours at a time? You should. It comes down to having the right ventilation. Here are some options.

From slippery floors to noise, numerous hazards exist in every workplace. But one of the very worst hazards is polluted air, particularly in the welding environment.

Regardless of the industry concerned, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that hazards of all kinds be controlled at the source. In some industries, it is possible to build an engineered barrier between the hazard and the workspace. Additionally, specific personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn or used to minimize any type of risk.

In the welding industry, common PPE includes safety goggles, welding helmets fitted with filter glass, gauntlets, spats, aprons, and heat-resistant gloves. Work areas also should be screened off so that others in the work area are not exposed to the electric arc or its reflection while welding is being conducted. The intense light associated with the arc can cause permanent eye damage.

The dangerous health risks of breathing in welding fumes are horrendous. In addition to relatively minor symptoms like dizziness; nausea; and nose, throat, and eye irritations, OSHA warns that prolonged exposure to welding fumes and gases over time can result in lung damage and various forms of cancer. Welding fumes also can cause stomach ulcers, damage to the nervous system, kidney damage, and conditions like metal fume fever.

Welding in confined spaces is particularly risky and can lead to asphyxiation and suffocation.

If the OSHA standards are met or, better yet, exceeded, welders and other employees working in potentially hazardous environments will have clean, unpolluted air to breathe.

OSHA Standards for Ventilation

It is essential that all welders understand the hazards they are exposed to. It is even more important that employers take steps to minimize these hazards.

While general ventilation that ensures natural or even forced movement of fresh air in the welding environment reduces gas and fume levels, this is not adequate. Not even welding outdoors or in open spaces provides sufficient ventilation for welders. Rather, local exhaust ventilation systems should be employed at the source to ensure that fumes, welding dust, and harmful gases are removed from every worker’s breathing zone.

Flexible or portable exhaust systems should be positioned to remove the polluted air away from the welder’s breathing zone.

Alternatively, general mechanical ventilation can ensure that welding fumes and polluted air are minimized and maintained within safe limits that meet OSHA’s health and safety regulations.

Figure 1: Traditional push/pull, duct-type ventilation system.


If necessary, additional respiratory protection may be needed, particularly if adequate ventilation cannot be provided.

But these are minimum specifications; ideally, a proven general mechanical system should be used together with a local exhaust system.

Industry Options for Improving Ventilation in Welding Environments

While the ventilation equipment chosen must meet the needs of the type of welding carried out as well as the location used, the best system ensures that the entire workshop, factory floor, or industrial warehouse is properly ventilated.

General Mechanical Ventilation Systems
Welding operations pollute the air. The warm, contaminated air rises and then sinks when it cools. Traditional push/pull, duct-type ventilation systems literally pull the polluted air out of the workshop via pipes and push clean air back, also via pipes (Figure 1). This type of system works reasonably well if smoke and dust levels are low, but it has obvious shortcomings, including the fact that it relies on a circular flow of air, and inevitably some dust and fumes mix in with the air that has been purified.

A recent development is a freestanding air tower that uses principles of displacement flow to provide the best possible full-room ventilation. It works in a similar but much more sophisticated way than the traditional push/pull system. Remember that warm, polluted air rises, and the tower sucks this contaminated air in from the top through its 360-degree lamella or gills. A two-stage method automatically cleans the filter. Because the air is pushed out slowly, without any turbulence, the possibility of dust and fumes polluting this clean air is reduced. Additionally, dust that is not contaminated is collected into bins for easy disposal.

Freestanding air towers are suitable for all types of welding applications, and they work exceptionally well in large production areas and where local exhaust systems aren’t possible.

Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems
Local exhaust ventilation systems use a variety of welding fume exhausts as well as filtration units, many of which are mobile. Wall-mounted or large central units can be attached to highly efficient exhaust arms that filter the polluted air at the source.

The choice of a local exhaust system depends on a number of requirements. For instance, some are more suitable for frequent or continuous use than others, while some are better-suited for use at workstations that change frequently.

Features also vary. For instance, you might prefer a mobile filter that has an exhaust hood that rotates and swivels and doesn’t have to be adjusted frequently. Maybe an automated cleaning cycle is important to you, or you just want a self-cleaning filter incorporated in a unit that has automatic dust disposal. Some units are meant for welding environments where there isn’t much dust or smoke; others are designed to handle high levels of dust and smoke.

Central and freestanding filtration units also vary, although all are stationary. A central extraction unit designed for use with robots is a good choice for large welding workshops or where grinding is common. It has a filter that is cleaned automatically with rotating nozzles and compressed air and can be used with various exhaust arms if required.Another type, designed for use in smaller workshops, can be used at up to four workstations at one time and be connected to a central piping system.

All of these systems are OSHA-compliant.

It really is a no-brainer that those operating welding workshops and factories should use well-designed ventilation equipment to keep their employees (and themselves) safe and healthy. Ultimately, doing so helps ensure that workers perform better, which improves productivity, reduces costs, and increases profits.


SORT Your Way to a Safer Work Environment 

There is an endless amount of acronyms when talking about safety. The acronym S.O.R.T. is a tool that can help remind us to take steps to address hazards and create a safe work environment. S.O.R.T stands for Stop, Observe, Recognize, and Take Ownership.

  1. Stop- It is necessary to take time not only at the beginning of the work shift to evaluate both the work area and equipment for hazards, but also as conditions change. When we are rushed we miss the small details that matter. Always take the time before a task begins to evaluate the work task you are about to do. Anytime conditions change or things are not going as planned, stop work and evaluate what needs done to correct the situation.
  2. Observe- Take time to evaluate at the environment around you. How are weather conditions, lighting, and temperature at the work area? Are the needed personnel and tools in the work area ready to go?  Has all equipment been thoroughly inspected prior to starting the work task? Has all necessary paperwork such as SOPs, JSAs, or permits been reviewed and completed?
  3. Recognize- Once you have stopped and observed the work area what hazards do you see? Your ability to recognize hazards comes down to utilizing training, safety meetings, company policies, lessons learned, safety shares, and past experiences. Much time is spent in discussing and training everyone onsite to be able to recognize hazards in order to mitigate them and protect ourselves from injury.
  4. Take Ownership- Ownership is the most important part of the process. Once you recognize hazards or potential issues while on the job, own them. See through that they get properly corrected in a timely manner. It is easy to just walk past an issue and think that it is not your problem. In reality any hazard on the job is your problem. If someone else is hurt or there is property damage due to the hazard you recognized and walked past, it will have some sort of effect on you. Incidents affect a jobsite as a whole, and depending the severity, can have far reaching consequences for an entire company. There is also guilt you could feel due to an injury occurring to a coworker from a hazard you could have addressed. Taking ownership means more than just communicating the hazard to the other people in the work area. Stop work if necessary and get the right people involved to correctly address the hazard.


While these four steps are very basic, it is easy to skip some of them and just go through the motions due to complacency or time restrictions when at work. We often complete many of the same work tasks in the same way every day. This makes it easy to fall into a trap of having blinders on to hazards that could lead to an injury. Use the S.O.R.T. tool to remind yourself to take the time to really evaluate your work area for hazards and to take ownership of them.

Sort Your Way to a Safer Work Environment Safety Poster

Recognized Vs Unrecognized Hazards

There are many hazards in our workplaces and at home that can cause great harm if exposed to them. So much time, effort, and money is spent by companies to train their employees to be able to recognize hazards in an attempt to prevent injuries from occurring. While it is often thought that new employees of a company who may not understand the hazards of the job are most at risk for injury, a case can also be made for those experienced employees who have become complacent with the hazards of their work. A question to consider: Which are more dangerous- the hazards we recognize or the ones we do not?

The Dangers of Unrecognized Hazards

Unrecognized hazards create a huge risk for injury on the job. Failure to be able to recognize hazards can result in exposure to every employee in a work area where the hazard is present. A huge goal in return for the time spent discussing safety in the workplace is to improve employees’ abilities in hazard recognition. The thought process being, if employees are able to recognize hazards they can take action to protect themselves and others from them. That being said, it is important to consider those employees who have been on the job a long time and recognize the hazards of their work however may not take the necessary action in mitigating the hazards due to becoming complacent or comfortable with the risk associated with them.

Hasil gambar untuk hazards versusComplacency with the Recognized Hazards of Our Work

Workers in their positions for a long time understand the majority of the hazards of their work. Experienced workers have sat through countless hours of safety trainings and have many hours of on the job which allows them to recognize the hazards of their work. However, with this experience can also bring complacency towards taking risks for these workers. Those employees who have been on the job for a long time can be desensitized to the gravity of the hazards around them. Working around hazards for a long period of time without any negative consequences occurring can create a false sense of security which in turn can lead to an employee to be more willing to put themselves in the line of fire. This is often the case when time pressures or pressure for production, even if it is just self-imposed pressure, is present.

Habits and Safety

We all have habits that we follow on a daily or weekly basis. These habits have a major effect on our life. They also affect the choices we make at work. The choice to follow a safety procedure on any given day could be affected by a habit you have had for years.

Your Daily Habits

Think about the habits you follow every single day. Start with waking up. Did you hit the snooze button once or twice? Do you do this every day? What about breakfast? Did you cook in the house or did you stop at the same gas station you do every day to grab a quick bite to eat? Most likely the choices that you have made from the point you woke up today to right now in this safety meeting are the same choices you make every single day. These daily choices are your habits.

How Habits Work

According to Charles Duhigg, who is the author of the book The Power of Habit, there is a “habit loop”. The habit loop he describes in his book is a three part process. The first part of the process is the cue or trigger, the second is the routine or behavior itself, and the third is the reward.

Habits Safety TalkLet us take the example of you repeatedly hitting the snooze button and look at it as a bad habit you want to break. We will discuss the habit by looking at Duhigg’s habit loop. The trigger of this habit would be your alarm going off in the morning. While the alarm is blaring your mind tells you it is okay to hit the snooze button and continuing sleeping because in the past you have done it. Hitting the snooze button would be the behavior. The reward would be getting more sleep. To break this habit you would need to change one of the three components.

Looking at the routine first, maybe changing the location of your alarm to a location where you would have to get out of bed would work in breaking the habit. The alarm going off is still the trigger, but you have changed the routine by having to physically get out of bed making it less likely you will go back to sleep. Another option to help break the habit is experiencing a different reward which would be having more time in the morning. By not hitting the snooze button repeatedly you will experience a new reward of more time and less rush in the mornings before work. This reward alone over time may lead you to curve the habit of hitting snooze. Not all habits are easy to break, but you get the point.

Habits and Safety on the Job

Your habits may be leading you to consistently take shortcuts and not follow safety procedures. Are there certain safety procedures you always follow and others that you rarely follow? For example, you are a welder and every single day you complete your JSA, but many days there are times you choose not to lower your helmet while welding. Why do you choose to follow one safety procedure but not the other? Maybe you complete your JSA every day because you have to turn it in at the end of the day and you have learned that it gets reviewed. The reward would be not getting disciplined by a supervisor so you choose to do the JSA every day. On the other hand you choose not to lower your welding helmet because it is hard to see through and you know supervisors rarely enter your work area. The reward is that you feel it is quicker to do the task, you can see better, and you have not been injured yet. In your mind there is no consequence that will most likely come that is more negative than the reward you receive from not putting the helmet down so you continue the behavior.

Verbal Communication

Every single day when we are around other people, we are communicating something to them regardless if we actually speak to them. The way we look at people, what we wear, our facial expressions, and our body language are just a few ways we communicate with others outside of spoken word. It is important to be aware of what message we are sending to those around us and how it is affecting them or the work you are completing.

Non Verbal and Verbal Communication

Most people would guess that verbal communication makes up the majority of communication. Studies show however that the majority of communication is actually nonverbal. This nonverbal communication is linked to actual words we say. The Non Verbal Group states, “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).”  While this statement makes the claim that we overwhelmingly communicate non verbally, much of the communication is delivered through how we talk not so much as to what we say. When is the last time you have given thought to the link between how you communicate and the effect it has on the people around you?

ToastmastersWhy We Need to Be Aware of How We Communicate

Everyone has worked with someone who is consistently negative and is hard to approach about anything. Often times, most people do not want to approach these individuals or communicate with them due to how they communicate verbally and nonverbally. When an individual snaps back or approaches communication with others in a negative manner it is difficult to get any message across. Going back to the statistic about how communication is more about how we say something and less about what we actually say, everyone should be aware of how they are coming across to others.

When we pay no mind to how we communicate with each other, messages are lost or not conveyed at all. At work, communication is vital is being able to successfully work safely and efficiently. When everyone feels comfortable being able to approach each other it creates a healthier working environment. Effective and open communication creates a working environment that can lead to individuals feeling comfortable stopping work when needed, more hazards addressed, higher morale, less stress, and better cohesiveness between work groups.

CHAINSAW Safety Talk

Chainsaws are inherently dangerous tools. They are proven to be efficient in cutting down trees so it is no surprise that they can cause serious injury to flesh and bones in quick fashion. Each year there are over 30,000 injuries in chainsaw-related incidents in the United States. Many of these injuries occur at home, however there are many workers who are injured on the job using chainsaws. Most of the hazards can be mitigated through proper training, proper use, and wearing the correct PPE.

Chainsaw Injury Statistics

  • Most injuries from chainsaw use are due to “kickback”. Kickback occurs when the tip of the chainsaw hits a hard object such as a knot in the wood and kicks back towards the person operating it.
  • 36% percent of chainsaw injuries affect the legs and knees.
  • The average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • In 2012, according to OSHA, 243 workers died in tree trimming activities.

Chainsaw Safe Work PracticesChainsaw Safety

  • Read the entire operation manual before using any chainsaw. Always operate within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Do not alter any guards on the chainsaw. Also do not alter any safety features such as a lock-out or “dead man” switch. These switches will prevent the chainsaw from engaging accidently or will shut the chainsaw off if pressure is not applied on the switch.
  • Wear the correct PPE for using a chainsaw. Correct PPE includes: Protective chaps, hardhat, face shield, gloves, earplugs, and protective toe boots. While it may be an expensive investment, correct PPE will be far cheaper than a trip to an emergency room.
  • Do not operate a chainsaw on a ladder or any unstable surface. Losing your balance while operating a chainsaw can result in a deadly injury.

Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos is a material that was widely used in many building materials which are still found around us today. While it is still in use in a few different materials today, much of its use was stopped in the late 1980s after research revealed the negative health effects associated with its fibers. Many people have heard that asbestos is bad for human health, but do not understand how or why this is the case.

asbestos containing materialsWhat is Asbestos and Where is it Found?

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. It has been used in products, such as insulation for pipes (steam lines for example), floor tiles, building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches. Some occupations whose workers have historically been exposed include construction workers, demolition crews, shipyard workers, automobile technicians, and those who worked in factories that produced asbestos-containing materials.

How is Asbestos Bad for Our Health?

The International Agency on Research for Cancer lists all forms of asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans”.  A carcinogen is defined as any substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer. The reason this mineral is a carcinogen is because of the effects its fibers have on human lungs. Asbestos is made up of extremely small fibers that are naked to the human eye. These fibers can become airborne and stay suspended in the air. When they are breathed in the fibers can make it past our bodies’ natural defenses and get lodged into the tissue of our lungs. When this occurs, scar tissue begins to form which reduces the function of our lungs. It eventually progresses to disability and death. Mesothelioma is a common deadly illness caused by exposure to these fibers. Sometimes the effects are not realized for decades after exposure.

Best Practices for Working Around Asbestos

Become familiar with what building products asbestos is found in and what it looks like. Knowing what to look for is important to order to avoid disturbing these materials. There are many materials in our workplaces that still contain asbestos to this day, but it is relatively harmless until it is disturbed in a way that creates airborne fibers. Smashing, breaking up, cutting, or grinding materials that may have asbestos in it should never be done. Creating dust through sweeping is another task that should be avoided if it is thought any of the dust is from materials that contain asbestos. Any asbestos containing materials that are beginning to break down or flake need to be properly sealed or abated by professionals.


While much of the occupational exposure to asbestos in developed countries has decreased, there is still exposure all across the world to this carcinogen. Cases of mesothelioma are still being diagnosed in the United States today due to exposure decades ago. Protect yourself by not disturbing any materials that could possibly have asbestos in them.

What is Your “Why”

what is your why safety talkWhat is Your “Why” for Working Safe? 

There is a rhyme and reason for every single thing that we do- day in and day out. There can be multiple drivers behind the reasons why we take a certain action. Some examples include long-formed habits, avoidance of pain, seeking of pleasure, money, relationships, or even deep-seated biological factors. The list of WHY we do what we do at any given moment of the day can be as long as a football field. It is necessary to be self-aware and understand what drives you to take certain actions or why you do not take certain actions. This is especially true for choosing to work safe on the job.

Finding Your “Why” for Working Safe

Working safely does not come natural for many of us. It can even be argued that many aspects of working safely actually work against our own human nature. Because of these facts, it is important to find your “why” for working safe on the job. Motivations for each individual will vary greatly, but below are a couple reasons that could serve as your “why” for choosing to work safe.

  • Your health. Obviously a big driving factor should be your own health and well-being. However it can be argued that this fact alone is not enough for a person to want to work safe. Many individuals may be more willing to take risks if they believe the only person it will affect is themselves.
  • Your family. Earning an income and providing for a family is one of the biggest “whys” for many things we do in life including working safely. Understanding how an injury will affect your family can be a strong “why”.
  • Your company. Love the company or not, the paycheck you earn from your work pays your bills. Not only does the company pay your bills in exchange for your work, but hundreds or thousands of other employees depend on the paycheck they get from the company. When individuals choose to take risks there can be huge long lasting effects for the company as a whole if injuries or fatalities occur. Understanding how injuries can negatively impact a business which in turn could lead to layoffs, reduction in benefits, lower raises, etc. can be your “why” to choose to follow safe work practices and procedures.

Taking Action Safety Talk

There are many variables for success in anything you do. At work there are many qualities in those individuals who are viewed as people who get things done and are effective in their position. One key attribute that successful people share is that they take action. Taking action is the foundation in succeeding at whatever you are trying to get accomplished. This basic principle is very important for success in every aspect in your work including working safe.

taking action toolbox talkTaking Action to Work Safe

Safety is one thing that does not happen by accident. Massive thought and action are necessary to ensure all workers at a jobsite go home healthy each day. This thought and action begins at the highest levels of management before work even begins and makes its way down to each individual worker completing their tasks for the day. Management can provide all of the training, resources, tools, equipment, etc. needed to work safely but if each individual worker does not take action to utilize these things then it is wasted effort.

An example of this at the most basic level is hazard identification. A large amount of time each year is spent on training employees to recognize hazards. While recognizing hazards is extremely important, it is only the start of the process to ensure safety during a work task. After hazards are identified, action needs to be taken to mitigate or eliminate the hazard. Workers who only identify hazards but do not take action to mitigate them still leave exposure to risk for everyone in that work area. Without action nothing gets done. Taking action to work safely can manifest itself in various ways.

Examples of Taking Action to Work Safer

  • Involving the right personnel to get hazards corrected
  • Stopping work to take the time to make a work task safe before proceeding
  • Taking ownership of a problem and seeing it through that it gets corrected
  • Communicating hazards or mitigation actions to coworkers
  • Asking for help to understand how to do a task safer or more efficiently when you do not understand

Proactive Versus Reactive Safety Approach

Related imageMany of the safety rules and procedures that are in place were “written in blood”, meaning they came about from a previous incident that caused an injury, property loss incident, or a fatality. When we implement a safeguard after an incident occurs we are taking a reactive approach to safety. We can look at the majority of rules and procedures that we follow today as a proactive approach towards safety, however many of them came from a reactive position. Something bad had to happen first before many of the rules and procedures were put into place.

Being proactive is the best way to approach safety in the workplace. Addressing and eliminating hazards before work begins should be a main goal of a company’s safety program. Many workers or the management in some companies would rather take a reactive approach with some hazards rather than being proactive and eliminating them up front. This mindset puts everyone onsite and the company as a whole at risk for an incident or injury.

Proactive Versus Reactive Example

An operator is on an excavator in an already tight work area. A crew that has a work task next to him decides to park in his work area. The crew is not aware of the scope of work for the operator’s task and that is why they did not recognize the hazard of parking there. This makes his job even more difficult to complete. Instead of the operator asking the crew to move their vehicles to a safer location or contact his supervisor he decides he can probably squeeze by the vehicles to complete his work. Ten minutes later he turns his excavator around and in the process hits two of the crew’s vehicles with his counterweight.

If he were to took a proactive approach towards the hazard of the vehicles in his work area this incident would not have happened. He could have stopped his work and asked the crew to move their vehicles to eliminate the hazard of hitting them. This small decision could have made a big difference.

Instead, there will be a site shutdown to complete an incident investigation. The investigation takes time and money to complete. There will be a large cost to fix the vehicles. Individuals could be written up in result of the incident. New procedures and rules will be implemented to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

Being proactive sometimes takes time to do successfully. To eliminate some hazards it takes thought and planning to do correctly. Other times, like in the example, a two minute conversation to move the vehicle could save hours of downtime, money, and stress for everyone involved.